Growers who have lived in the shadows will be able to earn their living without having to hide what they do, dispensaries will provide both medicine and jobs, and patients will have safe, easy access to the medicine they need. That would be the fulfillment of the Prop 215 law.
Donna King, Director of Education at the Garberville 707 Cannabis College, says that what she hopes for as the rules are written is that no one loses sight of the compassion in the Compassionate Act.
”Certainly we all know that some of the 215 situations are a ruse to make money and there is no compassion there,” she says. “But that’s not what most of it is. I think that most of the people growing under 215 use it themselves for medicine or they make it available to other people for medicine. Given an opportunity to participate in a more medicinal track, they would be happy with that.”
There are an estimated 14,000 medical marijuana patients in the county, a figure given out at a Eureka City Council meeting King attended. Some people were surprised at that, she says, but King says that cannabis is such a versatile medicine that it is applicable to a very wide number of complaints. In her research on the medical applications of cannabis, she found that much research is being done.
”In Europe,” she says, “where governments are not being tools for large corporations like the U.S. government is being, they are actually doing research - real research - and you can go online and get information from scientists and doctors.
While marijuana used to be all about THC and its psychoactive effects, research has discovered other components which are beneficial for a wide variety of physical conditions. So far, the component CBD is the one with the most applications, but CBDC, THCA, CBC, CBG and THCV have all been identified as having applications to specific illnesses or physical conditions. Because of that, it’s not surprising that there are so many cannabis patients, she says.
A good number of these patients are referred by their regular doctor. She says that some doctors might suggest cannabis to a patient but wouldn’t write a recommendation because of the possible consequences to them. If, for instance, they work for a federally funded clinic, they wouldn’t want to put the clinic in jeopardy of losing its funding. Others write recommendations for their patients but don’t advertise that they do it. And then there are the doctors who advertise themselves as 215 recommendation providers, including Dr. William Courtney who has an office in Redway.
Doctors like Courtney get a certain amount of scorn for their practice, but King says that Courtney is a scientist as well as a physician. He’s involved in research in European countries where research is allowed. Independent research on cannabis is prohibited in the U.S. She says that Courtney is a specialist in the same way as other doctors are specialists.
”There are a number of doctors who see cannabis as an essential nutrient,” she says, “a dietary nutrient that is missing in our diet, that when we were hunter/gatherers, we were eating this and that’s part of how we stayed healthy.”
CBD and THC have gotten the most focused attention in scientific study but research is ongoing and new constituents are being discovered.
”CBD is the most therapeutically active,” she says. “It’s used as an antipsychotic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and even antibacterial. It is used for diabetes, headaches, and as a bone stimulant. If you ingest a high CBD strain of cannabis, it stimulates bone cell growth. I have to wonder about using the high strain of CBD for osteoporosis if ingested like a juice. The THCA and THCV are considered “antiproliferatives” and are recommended for conditions like cancer, where cells are growing out of control, and for thyroid conditions.
”There are also these things called ‘terpenes’” and terpenes are what you smell. Even the smell of cannabis has therapeutic value.”
Complaints about the odor of marijuana in neighborhoods where it is being grown is one of the main complaints heard by sheriff’s deputies, planning commissioners and the Board of Supervisors. King says she understands that.
”People who are not cannabis friendly don’t want to smell it and I don’t blame them. When it’s growing next to you, it’s not necessarily that pleasant to constantly have the odor of cannabis in your face. Even the odor of roses after a while can be too much and too thick.”
The ways in which marijuana can be used are many, too.
Smoking, she says, is not always the proper use. She says that what is commonly thought of as the recreational use of cannabis through smoking is actually a stress reducer so in that way even recreational use is medicinal because stress plays such a factor in our overall health. She cautions that overuse can lead to lung problems. Yogis in India who use cannabis as their sacred drug and smoke it every day have lung problems in later life.
In her experience, King says that juicing green marijuana and drinking it is a very effective way of using the plant. She says that vaporizing fresh plant material is another way of using the plant. Vaporization is a way of burning a plant without making smoke. The process produces vapors that can be inhaled and there is a greater CDB exchange in vapor than in smoke.
But the best thing, she says, is to eat or drink the green, fresh plant.
”The taste,” she says, “is wonderful, like sweet raw green beans.”
But be cautious. Eating raw marijuana leaves can cause stomach upset in some people.
”Nothing is good for everybody,” she says, “and cannabis is not effective for all patients. It doesn’t help everybody for every ailment, but nearly everybody can be benefited by the proper use of cannabis.”
The 707 Cannabis College offers classes in how to infuse, boil, bake and vaporize fresh cannabis. It’s part of their mission to help people make their own medicine. They don’t work with cannabis, but teach the general techniques with other green matter.
But how does a patient go about deciding which strain of cannabis is best for their condition? King says the dispensary workers should be able to help a patient with that kind of advice. There are a profusion of strains of marijuana now, each one bred to emphasize a certain constituent and with applications to certain conditions. Plant breeders are busy perfecting different strains of marijuana to emphasize one or another of these known constituents.
King, a body worker by profession, has done a lot of work with cancer patients as a hospice volunteer. Use of cannabis by the terminally ill and by cancer patients is probably the best known medical application for cannabis. Working with hospice is where she became aware of the benefits of cannabis.
”I am interested in helping people feel better,” she says. “I have seen the value of cannabis as a medicine in other people’s lives and in my own life. Hospice patients, anyone with cancer or some other wasting disease can benefit from cannabis. The medications and treatments for those kinds of diseases produce nausea and discomfort and that’s what THC is good for. Their best delivery method is to smoke it, vaporize it or eat it in an edible product, if they can eat. Many times, smoking it allows them to be able to eat regular nutritious food.”
King says she would like to see the field develop to where a patient who couldn’t pay for the medicine could get it anyway and those who could afford to would pay. She would like to see it become reimbursable by insurance, including Medicare, as older people are prone to complaints for which some strains of marijuana are very effective. She’d also like to see better written instructions for dosage. Right now, patients are most likely to determine their correct dosage through trial and error. But her biggest concern is for the patients who may get left out.
”As we are forging ordinances and as we are moving forward to legitimize and regulate, step out more into the light with the cannabis industry,” she says, “my concern is that those persons who can really benefit but cannot afford to purchase it do not drop through the cracks and that the Compassion Use Act retains compassion.”
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY MARY ANDERSON
Donna King, Director of Education at 707 Cannabis College, holds a chart from the publication “Trends in Pharmacological Science.” Much research on cannabis is being done in Europe, with new constituents of cannabis identified and found to be effective for a wide range of human conditions and illnesses.