Tag Archives: cannabis

Keep It Legal Colorado

Evette Hurd, protesting outside the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Media coverage of Colorado’s quasi-legalization has led to the impression that its citizens have safe, affordable access everywhere in the state.  Sensationalist stories about funding schools, scholarships, and homeless aid programs have made international news.  What isn’t told are the stories of patients still being persecuted, prohibition seeping back into legislation, and that reality is a very different picture.  Here is the story, straight from the front lines of the Front Range.

Medical was voted in around 2001.  For 11 years, Colorado had a functioning, and relatively acceptable medical marijuana program.  Patients had the option of growing doctor recommended plant counts, dispensaries developed a system, and most patients had what they needed.  In 2012, Colorado celebrated a victory with the passage of A64, their recreational marijuana ballot initiative.  This changed everything.  I am absolutely for descheduling of cannabis, and know that cannabis can serve as a safe recreational alternative.  However, legalizing recreational changed the face of everything medical from the industry to the legislation.  Washington and Oregon have also faced these same challenges, and quietly restricted their programs as well.  This change is why patients are once again, on the steps of the State Capitol and in their city’s streets.

Colorado now faces the threat of a prohibition reintroduction.  Four years of legalization has had some speed bumps, and propaganda campaigns have fueled a lot of unrest from non-cannabis users.  All along I-25 in places like Pueblo, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Spring, Amendment 20 has come under fire.  The strategy is a slow and steady chipping away at the state amendments.  It has gone virtually unnoticed.  What the news doesn’t tell you is that Colorado is a Home Rule state.  Local municipalities can change what they don’t approve of (or they claim will be harmful to their city), and even opt-out of some state legislation.  Most of the local municipalities in Colorado have latched on to that and attacked every part of A-20 they could.  Home grow rights have been virtually wiped out along the I-25 corridor, because of a problem that has been grotesquely exaggerated by City Officials and Law Enforcement.  In Colorado Springs, the DEA presented an extremely passionate doomsday scenario to City Council.  The agent presenting (Tim Scott), was almost yelling and looked as if he could stroke out at any point.  His face was red, voice elevated, and you could even hear the huffing and puffing on the video.  Check it out here at time marker 5:12:25.  When all was said and done, they cited 186 homes that were being looked at for out of state trafficking.  186.  In Colorado Springs, there are over 185,000 homes.  The 5th grade math tells me that 186 homes out of over 185,000 results in 1/10 of 1% of a problem.  Even if the statistics given were quadrupled like Mr. Scott claimed, that still is less than half a percent.  So half of one percent gets medicine taken away, Colorado panics and calls in the DEA to prosecute you, and even more restrictive regulations (that only affect patients – not the intended illegal grows) get put into place.  It is Reefer Madness all over again, and happening throughout Colorado.

On a state level, medical cannabis and patients are being attacked as well.  While there was a huge victory with Jack’s Bill (SB-1373), prohibition measures are starting to get more and more support.  This year there was a bill introduced to restrict potency that lost by one vote on a technicality.  This bill is now being funded by the Anschtuz family and will be reintroduced for the November ballot.  This bill would limit the potency allowed on all recreational sales, so all concentrates, most edibles, and a large amount of flower would be completely banned.  While that doesn’t necessarily affect medical directly, Jason Cranford reported on Facebook that the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is already starting to put pressure on Denver medical dispensaries to become recreational. In Colorado Springs, Tom Scudder of A Wellness dispensary and a member of the Medical Marijuana Task Force said he would be in favor of reducing the number medical dispensaries in half.  There is speculation that the state is phasing out medical for the profits of recreational. Sadly, a large portion of the cannabis industry is actually lobbying to make these changes happen.  A recreational world would boost their bottom lines, and they all feel they will survive the battle over the monopoly.  Other than their own financial interests, none of the industry leaders seem to be involved with helping protect the eroding patient rights.

Slowly, patients are starting to see what is going on, but not quick enough.  In Colorado Springs, several advocacy groups are working to preserve the basic patient rights,  American Medical Refugees, CannAbility, and Cannabis Patient Right Coalition have all been speaking out against these infractions and been trying to unite the patient community.  Petitions like this one are starting to circulate around the internet, patients are starting to protest, and the community is coming together.  We need your help though.  A federal deschedule and consistent citizen involvement are the only things that will ever stop these types of onslaughts.  Be sure you are registered to vote, you are actively involved with emailing your elected officials (on all relevant issues, not just cannabis), and join the movement to take back our country.

Medical Marijuana Legal Soon?

These were one month of meds not including supplememnts.
This was a one month of meds not including supplements.

Recently a lot has come out claiming that the US Government is going to “make marijuana legal”.  People are raving that all Americans will have access to medical cannabis and our opiate addictions will be solved.  While there is no confirmed decision on cannabis (the government only said they would make an announcement about medical marijuana), there are some pieces of the puzzle that are in place that suggest something may be coming.  However, it doesn’t look like the US will be any closer to a compassionate medical marijuana program any time soon.

In the last 8 years, several new things have happened including: GW Pharmaceuticals completing human trials and garnering patents, half the states have some form of medical marijuana law and more are set to join in, multitudes of patient stories have hit the mainstream creating a fervor from patients, CDC recommended that doctors no longer test for THC when dispensing opiates, and a resurgence of the heroin epidemic has hit the US.  All of these together indicate that something may be coming from the Feds, but it is still all speculation.  If the government does decide to make some decision, it will probably be to move marijuana and cannabinoids to Schedule II (Marinol is Schedule III FYI).  There are a couple ways a Schedule II ruling could go.  One is that every state’s medical marijuana program remains intact and research begins, but the more realistic version isn’t so pretty. Moving cannabis to Schedule II does have some good points, and we know we cannot expect the government to do the right thing immediately.  Change is always baby steps.  In Schedule II, a doctor could actually prescribe FDA approved cannabis if they have the DEA registration, similar to how doctors prescribe oxyorphone.  Arguably, the best thing about Schedule II is that some forms of research will open up for cannabinoid therapy.  Cannabis and cannabinoids are incredibly complex and are excellent multi-performers.  Then add in terpenes, and the end result changes again.  Everything about cannabis has a shared, symbiotic relationship.  There isn’t one function per chemical, which makes studying cannabis tricky.  Definitive science is decades away, and the quicker we can start – the better.

If the Feds choose to ignore states rights, or if the states use the Federal piece as an excuse – a Schedule II classification could actually harm medical marijuana as we know it.  Schedule II would allow for a doctor to prescribe an FDA approved product to their patients.  GW Pharmaceuticals has 2 products (Epidiolex and Sativex) that are in the last staged of the FDA approval process.  This would mean the only 2 medical cannabis products that a doctor could prescribe would be these two.  No others.  A Schedule II ruling does not allow for the current system of medical marijuana, and leaves patients vulnerable to DEA raids and prosecution.  You can be prescribed morphine, but it is a felony to be caught with opium poppies.  The same would apply here.

Having a product like Epidiolex or Sativex will definitely be a convenient solution for some, but roughly 2/3 won’t get the benefit needed from those 2 products.  Epidiolex is specifically CBD which works amazingly in Dravet Syndrome, but doesn’t show the same track record with other seizure disorders.  In Colorado, most of the non-Dravet epilepsy patients use some form of full spectrum cannabis.  This means that they have to find the ratios of each cannabinoid needed to stop their seizures.  There are children in Colorado who use THC as a rescue medicine when having seizure issues, and others needing CBG or CBN (other cannabinoids).  Sativex does include THC and CBD, but the terpene variety and other cannabinoids are absent.  The Entourage Effect is part of the reason cannabinoids are so difficult to study.  Each reaction from cannabis, depends on the chemical make up of both the plant material and your body.  Having a strain higher in CBD is going to have a different effect than one higher in THC, as is a plant that has a higher ratio of CBN.  All of these plus the terpene make up (terpenes are just as important) will dictate how the cannabinoids work in the body.  Without the option for strain variety and to experiment with full spectrum cannabinoids, the pharmaceutical products will fall short of what patients need.

Cost will definitely increase.  A Schedule II prescription doesn’t last all year like a cannabis recommendation.  According to the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, “Prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances cannot be refilled.  A new prescription must be issued.”.  Every month, you will have to go see a doctor to get the prescription.  This new expense has to be added.  In addition, the Schedule II ruling will actually increase the value of plant material.  With the government admitting medical value yet restricting access to the plant, more and more are going to be seeking black market cannabis.  This could cause a resurgence in cannabis trafficking by violent cartels and an uptick in exactly the type of organized crime we are trying to prevent through descheduling.

Most disturbing is the ability of the DEA to start prosecuting patients again.  Should the government actually decide to do something about the erroneous scheduling of cannabis, they could choose to ignore states rights and refund the persecution of patients.  This would allow them to stamp out home grows (some states allow this, and in my opinion growing is the only sustainable way to treat any illness with cannabinoids), place felony trafficking charges on cancer patients, and would allow government intervention in patient’s lives.

Patients are tired of having to fight like this.  For a non-toxic substance (albeit intoxicating), too many lives are lost waiting for access that often comes too late.  Do not make the mistake of thinking a Schedule II ruling makes cannabis legal or accessible to the average patient.  Be sure you stay up to date on what your local, state, and country governments are doing and how that plays into the existing circumstances in your area.  Several states have started to push out their medical dispensaries in favor of the more profitable recreational markets, and those same states have basically banned home grows.  Without the ability to experiment with the entirety that is cannabis, many are looking at an unsure future.  Stay educated and up to date!

Has Cannabis Helped?

Cairns at Canyonlands National Park

This week, I found myself actually looking forward to my infusion for the first time in a LONG while.  At first, I was thinking that maybe the cannabis was not as effective, but then I really starting comparing why I am sore and swollen this week.

Last year around this time, I just was well enough to come off Arava.  I was weaned off opiates and down to tramadol, and my ability level was starting to seriously increase.  Our vacation is a great point of comparison actually, since we did an almost identical one this year.  At Arches,  I was barely able to hobble the Double Arch loop, and that was it.  I had a terrible photo reaction and that completely killed the trip.  The next day, I was sore and swollen like I had an internal Godzilla on a rampage.  Going to the ghost towns was quite strenuous and Mesa Verde kicked my ass as well.  By the time we went to Mesa Verde, I was able to see the Cliff House – though those ladders were the bane of my knees.  Everything else had to be driven to, and the only reason Cliff House happened was because I refused to miss it despite knowing I wouldn’t be doing much else later.  (In my mind, I kept imagining older Native Americans trying to do those ladders and HOLY COW they were badasses.)  I could hobble about 1 mile of flat land given a decent amount of time and resting points.  That was my Roche limit, before my body spun out of control.  That was also total for a 3 day period.  So for every mile I went, I needed 2-3 days rest to control swelling.   Because of this, last year we broke our vacation up into long weekends for the month of June.  This year, we just took a week and went.  So we crammed everything into one week, which meant we needed as few down days as possible.

Glenwood Springs

The death place of Doc Holliday, 2014 trip

Last year:  We stopped in Glenwood Springs for the day on our way out to Arches, but really only stopped for lunch at the Lost Cajun!  It was delicious, but just walking from the car down was a bit much!

This year: We not only walked the city, but made the walk uphill to pay our respects to Doc Holliday and the pioneers that built the West.  We tried to actually get into Hanging Lake, but that was a blessing in disguise.  I don’t think I could have made that hike based on how I hot it was that afternoon.    Both trips, these were the day before our Arches segment.  While I was worn out this last trip from the Doc Holliday hike, it didn’t affect my Arches performance like the Caverns did the year prior.

Arches

HOLY ROCKS BATMAN.

Last year:  I missed Landscape Arch because I could not make the hike.  Nor did I see Delicate Arch (not on my list so I was okay with it), or anything other than the Double Arch/ North-South Windows that wasn’t visible from the road.  After lunch,  I didn’t really leave the car and we were truly done for the day.  I was swollen, hot, and disappointed because I didn’t see the one arch that I wanted to.   Landscape Arch is incredibly fragile and is actually crumbling rather quickly in geological terms.

Landscape Arch bitches! I made it this year!

This year: I made the hobble to Landscape Arch which was 2 miles just in itself.  We also walked along that trail further until it was really dangerous for someone without a functioning ACL or proper ankles/feet.   On the way out, we also decided to follow another trail to see Pine Tree Arch (and the others in the area).  It was slow going for me and we rested as needed, but I was still okay.  That surprised the hell out of me.  Completely.  (It was also cool, so that worked in my favor.)  We decided to head out to lunch and rest after that.  When we got back to Arches, we also decided to see Double Arch again.  I was starting to feel a bit rough at that point, but not bad.  Once we got out to the car, we decided to push our luck and see if we could hike out to Delicate Arch.  That we didn’t make, but I am okay with that!  We saw the hill we had to go up and NO WAY I could do that.  We did end up walking about a mile into it, turned around and did see the petroglyphs.  So, despite the activity and fatigue from the day before, I was able to do all that this year!  (I do want to thank Mother Nature for helping out with the temps too!)   After Arches, we still had the energy to drive through Canyonlands National Park, but we both had hit our max for that day and stuck to things closer to the road.

Glenwood Springs #2/ Aspen

Ashcroft Ghost Town outside Aspen

Last year: Last year we took a weekend and went to the Glenwood Springs/Aspen area.  In Glenwood Springs, we walked a few blocks in the city and saw Glenwood Caverns.  The caves were cool, which helped – but this was really hard for me physically.  I had to rest and really couldn’t keep up with the group on the last cave we saw.  (One was really flat and not very long, and both weren’t more than a half mile combined.)  Even walking along the top of the Caverns was difficult and I was completely out of breath from the elevation/heat.   In the Aspen area, we saw Ashcroft and Independence, both ghost towns high in the mountains.  Independence was pretty difficult for me to walk, because the terrain is uneven and hilly.  I was really struggling to keep up and found Ashcroft a wee bit easier to navigate.  Ashcroft was flatter with better pathways for the physically challenged.

Maroon Bells outside Aspen.

This year: Instead of the ghost towns and caves, we headed into Aspen itself and saw the John Denver Sanctuary, Aspen city, and Maroon Bells.  We made the hike out to the first lake, then along the creek back towards the north.  This segment of the trip was our rest portion.  We rented a cute cabin near Snowmass, and just relaxed near the Roaring Fork.

Mesa Verde/Grand Mesa

Cliff House, Mesa Verde

Last year:  Last year, took a weekend and went to Mesa Verde/Grand Canyon.  We stayed in hotels/cabins the entire time, and actually took a few days for Mesa Verde with a day trip to Grand Canyon.  I was able to see the Cliff House, but after that we drove everywhere else.  Thankfully, in both parks you can see most everything directly off the road.  We would go out in the morning (after having the sun reaction at Arches last year, we changed how we took trips), then rested during the heat of the day.  We say a lot at Mesa Verde, but weren’t able to see the petroglyphs or do much else other than the Cliff House tour.

Grand Mesa National Forest.

This year: We didn’t go to Mesa Verde this year, but in between our Arches segment and the Aspen segment, we primitive camped in Grand Mesa National Forest.  This meant gathering our own firewood and supplies without fail.  We did get caught in a storm the first night, so we had to also be sure the camp was weather proofed.  Camping above 9,000 ft. was incredibly interesting and a lot of hard work.  I was able to help set up camp, get firewood, walk to get help when the SUV got stuck on a snow bank, and track moose.  The activity level was far greater than what we used at Mesa Verde, and to even get to camp – we had to climb cardiac hill!   That hill probably wore me out more than anything, but it was really nice to be in the middle of nowhere camping.

 

Last year, we had to break up the vacation into 4 segments on weekends, with serious recovery in between.  This year, we did everything back to back, which means my recovery/healing time has gotten significantly better!  When we got back, we immediately planned another primitive camping trip to a BBQ festival the next week (so delicious) and 2 days after I got back from the fest, I took my youngest daughter backpacking for the first time.

Leadville BBQ Fest! So delicious!

Now I am sore, and really have hit a limit, but I was able to actually do over twice what I could a year ago with less recovery time.  My infusion is also 2 weeks late now (we have been gone), so that is a contributing factor to my soreness!  During the last 2 weeks, cannabis oil has been what is keeping me moving!  Without a doubt, my inflammation reduces better than any NSAID I have ever taken when I  use the cannabis oil (indica).  I will be curious to see how much the oil helps when I make my own this fall!  We have enough plants to do it, and I am hoping to use several whole plants for it!  So, I would say despite being sore, my activity level and quality of life has been improved beyond what I would have ever hoped for.  Definitely not a cure, but it is a game changer for me.

Why Should You Care?

I get it.  Devil’s Lettuce isn’t your thing.  All the hippies trying to get high off this obscene drug are evil.  So why even consider this issue?

First and foremost, it is the right thing to do.  There is ample evidence now that cannabis is successful as a medicine in many situations including autoimmune diseases, epilepsy, and cancer treatments.  Almost half the states have some type of pro-medicinal cannabis laws on the books and several more are rushing to put something in place.  The US Government and several other private organizations own medical patents on cannabis including #6630507 concerning the use of cannabinoids as antioxidants, and #8632835 about the anti-tumoral properties.  Opposing the legalization of cannabis is no longer the noble way to save the children, because now keeping it from them is actively denying them life saving medicine.    The only legitimate reason someone would oppose cannabis legalization is because they are being paid to oppose it.  I can list more patents on cannabinoids, but if you can read this – you can also Google yourself!

Immigration and the Cartels

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-11174174

This is a hot button topic for many people across the country.  We have millions of illegal immigrants and their families here in the United States with more coming every day.  In 2014, the Pew Research Center noted that the immigration rates were stabilizing after years of growth.  In 2014, 3.5% of our population was considered undocumented.  Mexican immigrants make up just over half of that.    You would be surprised how many stories you will hear where the border crossing has to be paid for by smuggling.  Violence by rival gangs has plagued border towns and has even spread to tourist destinations.  See some coverage here.  According to the (DPA) Drug Policy Alliance,  over 100,000 people have died in the Mexican Drug War.  That is an awful lot of people!  While cartel violence may not be the primary reason people risk the border crossing, you can be very sure it has influenced many people’s decisions!  The single biggest cash crop the cartels have is cannabis, and their largest customer is the United States.

Considering the strain on our cities that cartel fueled violence is causing (work in any Atlanta area school and you will see this blatantly), it makes sense to take their money and power away.  While the cartels will resort to other things for money, they won’t easily find something as ridiculously profitable as cannabis.  Very few drugs grow that readily and require almost no processing.  Logically speaking, legalizing whole plant cannabis in any form (medical or rec) helps to cripple these cartels.    Not all states understand how affected by the cartels they are.  Many of the drugs you find in any city in the US filter through Mexican cartels.  (Not all but a large portion are.)  Whether through 2 middle men or directly brought to the city, even Detroit drug culture runs on cartel goodies courtesy of Sinaloa.    Why are we adding fuel to the fire?  Legalizing cannabis could potentially take millions from the cartels and at least place them into the hands of our greedy politicians instead.  That leads to reductions in violence.

Violent Crime Decreases

This happens for many reasons.  First, cannabis access no longer puts people face to face with violent criminals who deal with a lot more than pot.  Most dealers deal everything they can get their hands on without discrimination.  They have obligations to their higher-ups, who often show displeasure with violence.  The likelihood of your local budtender threatening to “pop a cap in your ass” if you don’t comply with their wishes is very slim.    Cartels also have less of a presence in areas with legal cannabis…except California.  California just seems to be a cartel/gang magnet for some reason.  If there is little money to be made, why would a business spend time to set up shop there?  Cartels are money driven businesses, violent ones, but businesses still.   Lastly, consider that people on only cannabis actually don’t usually commit violent crimes.  As a general rule of thumb, most cannabis users are considered hippies and lazy.  Far cry from the family killing cannabis users described in the Reefer Madness Era.  Here is a study on cannabis and violence.

Money for Infrastructure

With legalization comes tax money.  I am not going to argue whether those taxes are proper, but people do seem willing to pay for their cannabis access.  This brings in another revenue source that can potentially be used to improve community infrastructures and education.  Schools and communities are screaming for funding right now, why not help them?  According to CNN Money, Colorado took in about $53 million dollars in recreational cannabis tax.  We even have a surplus that could potentially be a few bucks back in everyone’s pockets.  That is a lot of money, and could truly help bring many states out of the red.  Why let this money go to Mexican Druglords?  Fifty three million from one state alone is a whole lotta guns the cartels no longer can buy!

Creates Jobs that Support Communities

Whenever you create a new industry, you create new jobs.  Jobs help to keep our communities alive and thriving.  Seriously, this should be a no-brainer.  Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon are all creating new industries that will funnel money locally, help the communities it supports, and keeps America working.  In case you haven’t noticed, many of our manufacturing jobs have left the country.  America is running out of industries that support people who work with their hands.  Most of America loves to work with their hands, which is why we aren’t overrun with astrophysicists.  If what we were doing is failing, why beat a dead horse?  Create more jobs and security for Americans!

Stop Unnecessary Incarcerations

http://www.occupy.com/sites/default/files/styles/slide_narrow/public/field/image/prison-article_0.jpg?itok=h-4V8KI4
http://www.occupy.com/article/why-private-prison-industry-our-schools

America as an incarceration addiction.  The “free-ist” nation on the planet holds roughly 5% of the world’s population.  Explain to me why we have 25% of the world’s incarcerated population?  According to the DPA, there were roughly 1.5 million arrests for non-violent offenses in 2013.  Of those, almost half (693,482) were related to marijuana.  So let this sink in.  Almost half of the non-violent arrests in the United States are for cannabis charges.  Now even sadder – almost 90% (88%) are only for possession.  We are arresting, processing, and jailing over half a million people for cannabis every year.  The criminal justice system is always going to have criminals to look into.  There are enough violent criminals, burglars, and cyber thieves to keep our systems floating.    Also consider who is targeted for these things.  Almost 60% of these non-violent cannabis arrests are minorities, despite the usage being similar.  Why are we breaking up families over a drug deemed safer than most food we eat?  Cannabis has 0 overdose deaths (yes, you can still die by doing something stupid while intoxicated), and not even water has that record!

I encourage you to look in to how and why cannabis actually became marijuana and became illegal.  There is a reason it was outlawed, and the name had to be changed.  Most people had NO idea what marijuana was, but cannabis was readily available in their local pharmacies.  It was commonly used as medicine, but never referred to as marijuana until the Anslinger onslaught.  Seriously, look it up.   Smoke signals is an excellent book if you want to catch up on the history of all this.  There is no reason we should be spending millions of dollars incarcerating non-violent offenders, or be contributing to the multi-million dollar private prison industry.

Opiate Use/Deaths Decline

The United States has 5% of the world’s population & consumes 75% of the world’s prescription drugs. See text for more info.
http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/popping-pills-prescription-drug-abuse-in-america

According to Newsweek, states with medical cannabis laws see opiate deaths drop by 25%!  That is HUGE!  More than 70% of Americans are on some type of medication, and 52% say they have for non medical reasons.  Unfortunately, these medicines are incredibly addictive, and have created a conundrum for patients.  Many patients, myself included, didn’t have cannabis as an option.  I spent decades on NSAIDS until my kidneys said no more.  Then my only option was to move up to opiates.  They are my only option right now if the cannabis doesn’t work.  Legalization offers a middle ground – something to try BEFORE opiates.  This will lead to less addiction, which will lead to less illegal supply, which will lead to fewer patients being persecuted for needing them.  From a strictly patient perspective, I need to preserve my organs as much as possible.  Going to opiates caused some permanent damage that I am not sure will reverse.  Eventually, I know my pain is going to need some help, that is the nature of a bone and organ eating disease.  I would like to put that moment off as long as possible, so I can be strong enough to pull through it.  Cannabis helps bridge that gap, and can prevent/delay opiate use for decades in some.

Also keep in mind, many patients on opiates also take other drugs including sleep aids, muscle relaxers, neuropathy drugs, and mood stabilizers.  All those things together can significantly increase the risk of sudden death or accidental overdose.  Using cannabis for one or more of those (I replaced ALL of those with cannabis) can really help improve the quality of life for patients, and reduce the risks of medicine reactions.

POLLUTION

http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/?ar_a=1

Yes I said pollution.   Are you aware that hemp, the nonpsychoactive cousin to marijuana, is also illegal?  Are you also aware that you can replace most petroleum-based products with hemp based products, and produce a lower carbon footprint?  Everything from fuel to plastic can be made with hemp.  Right now, there is a place in the Pacific Ocean called Garbage Island.  Our oil based plastic polymers never truly break down, so we have this massive build up of plastic waste in the lull of the Pacific.  Hemp plastic polymers completely break down.  They are also stronger.  Henry Ford made his first car on hemp fuel, but Rockefeller convinced him gas was the way to go.  It was great for Rockefeller, because gasoline was a waste product in the production of kerosene.  He found a market for his waste products.   Paper can be made from hemp, rather than trees.  Imagine the amount of hemp you can grow in the time it takes to harvest a tree?    Legalizing cannabis has tremendously far-reaching effects!

Marijuana is a much bigger issue than we give it credit for.   It has far-reaching latent effects that most can’t even begin to fathom.   Jack Herer may have been right when he said that hemp could save the world.   Unfortunately, humanity deems it necessary to make the most useful plant on the planet illegal.  Help change that.  Lives depend on it.  They really actually do.

From Pharma to Canna: Painkillers

A lovely plant from my garden last year.

 

Making the transition from pharma to cannabis was not an easy process, albeit very worth it!  There were many times I actually didn’t think I could make this transition.  Several obstacles have to be overcome when transitioning from any synthetic medicine to cannabis, including: finding your strains and dose, deciding on a method of delivery and adjusting to the nuances of said delivery method, and clearing the brain of any canna-propaganda.  In addition, you have to anticipate the flare that will come.  Any major trauma is going to cause the body to panic  and set up the potential for a flare.  During this process, I virtually withdrew from my friends and I could truly only focus on just existing.  Withdrawal and weaning are not fun processes.  Fortunately, I had no choice.  The only opiates I could take with out reaction were on the DEA’s hit list so they suspended shipment.  For that story, see this.  So know this will not be a cake walk, and be okay with that.  As with everything, we have to fight and figure this out for ourselves.  Being a stubborn horses arse comes in handy here.

You will need patience and realistic expectations.

You are on opiates which are going to cause withdrawal.   This means that even with your best efforts, you will still feel like absolute poo until this process is over.  My best advice is to keep your eye on the prize, and keep your expectations tempered.  Cannabis is amazing, but it is a process and medicine like any other.  Very few make this transition with no bumps.  I almost gave up completely a few times, because of the fatigue and flaring.  Withdrawal is worse than having the flu and it causes everything to amplify.  Keep in mind that during this process, you are also trying to establish your dosing and strain needs.  You will feel like absolute crap.

Weaning is a slow process.  Depending on things like: how long you have been on opiate therapy, your body chemistry, and which meds/dose, this process could take over a year.  Mine thankfully was only a few months of withdrawal (5 roughly), but my body is still adjusting to this.  While, I no longer have the flu type withdrawal symptoms – I still randomly have muscle seizures and my body still seems to be adjusting.  It has been over a year.    **If you are seriously going though withdrawal – raise your dose or get medical treatment.  THAT IS OKAY.  I had to do that several times, especially right near the end of my opiate use.** You will have to bounce your dosing back and forth depending on symptoms.  Going back up for a bit is OKAY, so don’t feel defeated (I sure did!)

Often we also tend to set our expectations way too high.  We have autoimmune diseases folks, and true remission is rare.  Clinically controlled autoimmuners still have pain.  You will still most likely not be pain-free.  Kudos to those who do achieve that, and honestly we always fight for this.  To our detriment we often expect our medicines to perform miracles.  If my autoimmunes disappeared today, I have a crap load of permanent damage that I will never get rid of.  I will never be pain-free.  Haven’t been in almost 30 years.  Can’t even remember what that is like.  I am okay with that, and just trying extend what I have as much as possible.  No, I have not given up the good fight.  Quite the opposite actually, but in accepting reality for what it is (while keeping the hope alive but tempered) has allowed me to LIVE my life and enjoy what I can do.  I know everything is not permanent.  This run of better mobility will eventually end, whether via age or disease.  So enjoy your life, despite your autoimmunes.  I truly believe this is the biggest FURA one can send.  Just don’t expect to magically be able to hike Pikes Peak or skydive.  Take your time and recover, but know it takes time.  Stay positive.  If you expect certain bumps, the ride is easier to get through.  (Especially if you are strapped in for it!)

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How to avoid overdose – Take it slow.  If you are new to cannabis or it has been a while, listen up.  This is the section you need!

Inhaled medicine is going to kick in quicker, but not be as strong or long-lasting.  Take a hit or two then stop.  See how you feel 15 minutes later.  Some strains are creepers, which means the effect will slowly creep up on you, rather than being immediate.  Here is a link to information on flower as medicine.  Edible medicine is like extended release opiates.  START SMALL.  JUST INCASE YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT, START SMALL.  Edibles can take up to 2 hours before they start taking effect, depending on your metabolism.  If you eat more than your dose, you will be miserable and possibly do something uncharacteristically stupid. For an article on how to use edibles, click here.   Concentrates are what you move up to when the rest doesn’t cut it, and are unchartered territory for me.

Signs to watch for – Be mindful of your body.  Cannabinoids affect everyone differently.  If you feel your heart racing a bit, go more indica.  You may need more CBD or other cannabinoids like CBN.  If you feel too drowsy, maybe head towards the sativa side.  Know you seriously do want to have CBD in your life.  autoimmune arthritis does its damage via inflammation.  CBD is anti-inflammatory.  Your THC can be adjusted based on your needs, so be mindful of the general make up of each plant.

Don’t do cannabis alone the first time.  It is easier with someone there to reassure you and make sure you don’t go nuts and eat a 100mg edible on your first go.  Once you know what to expect – no problem.  If you ever question your health or are with someone who is disoriented, please take them or go to the hospital.  Most people seem to be heeding the warnings of budtenders and labels, but a few have not and had fatal accidents as a result.  While you cannot die from a THC overdose shutting down your body, it can disorient you enough that you do something absolutely insane like jump off a balcony or shoot themselves.  Both of those have happened here, and I can only think these poor guys would never have done that otherwise.  Unfortunately, the budtenders are meticulous in talking to tourists about dosing and the packages are labeled.  Heed the warnings please.

Hopefully this, and the links within will help you decide if this is the right path for you, then help guide and inspire you.

Pesky Politics: Tricky Words in Legislation

Medical cannabis is definitely a hot topic in the United States this year!  Roughly half of our states have some medical cannabis laws on the books, and 4 have even legalized recreational marijuana!  Wow, you think?  We should have the happiest and healthiest patients around!  Given the percentage of states that have some form of medical cannabis laws, why do Americans actually take more pills than most of the world?  Because many of these laws are symbolic, others are designed to help less than 1% of their populations that need access, and others are so draconian that patients cannot heal themselves.  So as you are watching for your states to legalize, pay attention to these buzzwords/terms!  The presence of these indicate a high likelihood that the law is symbolic or designed to fail!

Where are you getting it????

Make sure the bill introduced allows for your state to produce and distribute the cannabis legally.  Many bills like the one in North Carolina or Montana may allow a patient to possess the cannabis, but they still cannot legally get it!  Keep in mind, those bills say you can get it from a state that allows for out-of-state transactions, but what patient can afford that travel expense?  Also, many states with medical laws don’t allow for out-of-state transactions!  Without a legal means of production and distribution, the law is useless to most patients!  Your state has to have a local program for patients to access their medicine.  Besides, think of the jobs?  You will need an ENTIRE industry of workers!

Only available through University trial studies

This is code word for – you won’t get it.  There are several problems with depending on University studies.  First, cannabis is Schedule I.  This means our government considers it more dangerous than heroin.  Doctors can actually prescribe heroin in certain cases, but can lose their licenses for recommending marijuana to a patient!  Another topic, sooooooooo this status means that any organization in the US that wants to study cannabis has to submit a proposal to 3 agencies.  I believe they are National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), FDA, and the DEA.  (I assume everyone knows the last 2 acronyms.)  Well, the DEA and NIDA very rarely approve of studies that show benefits of cannabis.   Their agencies focus on drug abuse, and both have publicly come out asking why they should approve any other study.  Okay, fine.  Except you are a required part of the approval process whether the study is benefit or harm.  This makes it almost impossible for a University to get approved for trial studies.  All cannabis in these studies comes from the farm in Mississippi, so a University cannot just grow their own legally.   ***IF*** the University does get approved, it takes years to set up the study.  NO ONE is helped by these laws.  Check out the story below about how North Carolina’s laws ended up in this situation.

http://www.wbtv.com/story/28027264/remember-nc-cbd-oils-law-families-say-it-doesnt-work

CBD ONLY

Who is this helping?  Maybe 1% of the patients who truly need cannabinoid therapy will be helped significantly.  Most research shows that the cannabinoids need each other to perform their duties, and those ratios are what needs to be played with!  Even with epilepsy patients, very little respond to CBD only.  It is a learning process like any other.  With any disease, you try to find the right combinations of medicine, diet, and lifestyle.  Each strain of cannabis is a different medicine with a different effect.  We should be able to find the ones that work for our particular illnesses.  While these laws are a start, they truly don’t accomplish the purpose of the bill – to help end patient suffering.

No time frame limits on setting up a distribution/patient access program

This is another clever way that politicians can trick you into thinking you have passed awesome legislation!  So you looked and your bill outlines production and distribution!  YAY!!!!!  Or so Illinois thought!  Their legislation passed several years ago, and as of this writing – NO DISPENSARIES HAVE OPENED.  Only now have patients started receiving their licenses.    It was almost like the legislators never expected it to pass, and therefore never set up any framework for patient programs.  The last several years, politicians have bickered over the nitty-gritty while patients still have no safe access to medical cannabis.  Soon I hear, but make sure that your legislation provides a time limit before the programs must be up and running!

If any of these things appear in your bills, know that you have been tricked by your politicians into thinking you helped people!  Hold your representatives and elected officials accountable and call the news!  The more people are aware, the better!  Few know how difficult it is to research cannabis, few know that the universities aren’t required to set up trial programs, few know that the CBD isn’t so effective without THC!  Unfortunately the only way to truly end the war on patients, is to fight these symbolic laws and let the public know that patients are still untreated!

Year of the Flower, part 2 – Nitty Gritty

My last blog entry was a bit rushed, because I had to leave for some mind work!  When we left off, I was excitedly letting you know how I had dropped 60 pounds and was off 7 of my prescriptions!  Well, here is part 2 to that installment – specifically dealing with the nitty-gritty.  This has truly been a tremendously wonderful experience, but there have been a few negatives.  As a patient mentoring other patients, I feel these points need to be made as well!  Switching to cannabis has been quite a chore and honestly a pain in the arse at times!  Here is why! **Keep in mind, this is from a strictly patient perspective.  Rec use doesn’t have these issues associated with it!**

1. Cost.  Unless you are growing your own or replace at least 7-10 prescriptions, this is going to cost you more.  Unfortunately, the Federal Government’s prohibition of even medical cannabis has caused pricing to be outrageous and mostly unaffordable for the sick.   At about $40/7 grams (a week supply for the average patient, it becomes expensive.  Keep in mind that many patients treat with several types of strains, and this adds up.  If you are a severe patient like me, then you might require more or even concentrates.  SUPER $$$$$$$! Right now, insurance covered pharma is cheaper.  However, if you are uninsured anyways – this is cheaper than buying the pharma!

2. Finding your strain and dosing is a pain in the arse.  Yes it is.  Holy cow!  I really wasn’t sure I was going to make it off opiates because of this!  For the first month, every strain I tried made me feel worse!  It wasn’t until I magically came across the Alien OG, that I actually started to think this could work!  Your body’s need for cannabinoids change as well, which means you also have to switch up your strains every now and again!  All of this is trial and error.  Very few websites do purely medical reviews of cannabis, so in order to gauge a reaction – you have to sift through all the rec reviews.  Unfortunately, most rec reviews only talk about the buzz and most reviewers don’t know much about medical needs.  For me, I am a solid indica girl.  Sativas make me jittery and cause my bone pain to increase!

3. Overcoming the stigma of using cannabis consistently as medicine really was a big deal for me – bigger than I wish it was.  Overcoming all that propaganda and that “I am doing something SO wrong” feeling took months, which means I didn’t get relief for months.  We have teens , and I didn’t want them to mistake medical use for recreational use.    For this reason, I never really used it except at night and sparingly during the day.  Finally, I became more comfortable with it and saw that the kids truly did understand.  Thankfully, these kids know how sick I am and saw the issue those opiates caused.  No one wanted that and they have been incredibly supportive.  Hopefully, this next generation will see the truth and change what we have not.  Since being here, my kids have seen me get exponentially better – something my kids didn’t think was going to happen!

4. Traveling.  I cannot travel with my medicine, unless I am in Colorado.  This sucks badly.  Cannabis has replaced so many medications, that any vacations I take will actually be spent high on opiates, rather than functioning on cannabis.  I can go to some states (like CA and AZ)  and get a reciprocal license, but that is also costly and a pain in the arse.   Until cannabis is treated like opiates, then travel isn’t practical if you are a cannabis user.  Yes, I know you will say – do it anyways!  Well, have you seen the Colorado license plate profiling?  I am already sick – I don’t need jail time!

5.  Doctors are still scared of the DEA and not willing to look at science.   Many doctors (covered by insurance) won’t write for the recommendations because they are afraid of losing their DEA prescribing licenses!  This means it can cost upwards of $100 just to get a recommendation to be a cannabis patient simply because you have to see a special doctor.  Nucking futs.

6. All the federal/state scrutiny and rules.  To legally be a patient, you have to get background checks, submit to a state registry, your consumption is regulated differently than meds, and you have tons of hoops to jump though.  For instance, my renewal application was just rejected because of the form of ID I used.  Sent it in with my passport, and just got a note back saying I need another ID.  Well, I could have sent my license, but it said passport was fine!  HOLY SHIT TOO – IT TOOK THEM ALMOST 60 DAYS TO TELL ME THAT.     But it is what it is.  Good thing it is legal anyways!

These are some of the more annoying points to being a medical cannabis patient.  While I would still chose cannabis over anything else right now, it is a process to go this route.  My results have certainly been worth any heartache, and I am working on developing a green thumb to supplement my intake.

High CBD Strains, All the Rage! (But are they really?)

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been getting a lot of press lately.  Dispensaries are rushing to add high CBD strains and oils to their storefronts, and Charlotte’s Web has become the poster child for medical cannabis legislation.  So what are CBD’s, and should we all go fill a swimming pool with them and jump in?

Everyone knows about THC, the chemical that makes you high, but the second most abundant cannabinoid is CBD.  This is what most cannabis has been bred to produce over the last 40ish years, at the expense of the other cannabinoids in marijuana.  We may never know the original make up of the cannabis plant, but many of the other cannabinoids were found at higher levels.  CBD is one of those cannabinoids.

To date, scientists have discovered 2 receptors in our natural endocannabinoid system.  Those receptors are CB1 and CB2.  THC tends to bind to the CB1 receptor, but CBD can interact with both receptors.   That little CB2 receptor is most abundant in the immune system and nervous system.  (Because this blog is autoimmune arthritis based, I won’t go over the other benefits CBD has – but know there are many.)  Our immune systems need cannabinoids to function properly, and to help regulate its homeostasis.  So, for non geeks, that means CBD’s help keep our bodies as normal as possible!  Part of the government patent on cannabinoids includes anti-inflammatory potentials already shown by CBD’s!  So, there is definitely scientifically proven potential in CBD based immune system therapy.

But don’t forget about THC and the other cannabinoids!

While all this is super exciting, keep in mind there are over 60 known cannabinoids according to most scientists.  (I have heard several numbers thrown around actually, but this is the most common one.)  CBD is made to work together with those other chemicals to achieve that regulatory effect.  You may need THC and other cannabinoids like CBN and CBC.  If we learned anything from Marinol, it is that you cannot isolate each chemical and expect the same effects as whole plant medicine.  The discoverer of THC, Dr. Mechoulam, calls this the entourage effect.  CBD may do great things, but it may need its friends to help make that happen!

Since CBD strains have become the hot buzz, growers are working to develop strains with different levels of cannabinoids.  This provides us with lots of options like: high CBD/low THC, equal ratios of both, high/low ratios of both, and so forth.  Critical Mass x White Widow is a High CBD/High THC strain that can be used for stronger symptoms, while Harlequin is a Low THC/High CBD strain that is more for minor aches and pains.  Be willing to experiment.  Just like any of the meds we take, it is a crap shoot trying to find the magic combo.  You still have that with cannabis!

So while I am really excited about all this new research about CBDs, and CBD laws – know those other cannabinoids may be just as amazing and help each other be amazing!  So break out that pool, but be sure to add those other cannabinoids.  (Don’t really break out the pool – that would be such a waste!)

How I broke the chain of Opana ER

**This is my story, and know upfront I have been working with my Doctor on this.  ALWAYS CONSULT A PHYSICIAN BEFORE CHANGING YOUR MEDICATIONS.**   (Phew got that out of the way.  I don’t want someone reading this to attempt it without their doctor’s supervision.  It could kill them if not done properly!)

So before I get started, I want to mention that medical marijuana is like any other medicine.  (See the blog about the marijuana pharmacy).  There are strains like aspirin, strains like ibuprophen, all the way to strains like Opana.  Some are like Ambien and some like Zofran.  Basically, you have to do some research and try different things out.  Don’t give up if you don’t find a good strain the first time.  It took a couple weeks before I found the Alien OG that replaced my Ambien.

Most of you know that this was a forced process, but for those who don’t here is a short recap:  I was unable to reliably get the narcotic extended release medicine that I had been on over 18 months.  In total, I have been on narcotics for almost 5 years.  Not as long as some, longer than others.  So I really just walked into a recreational shop (no red card at the time) just as clueless as could be, told the budtender what I needed and followed their recommendations.  I don’t recommend you start that way.  I walked away with one strain that worked well for sleep (Nehi Grape) but 2 that didn’t work too well for me.

My research was done after having cannabis in my possession.  Because my initial reactions to cannabis were not that fantastic, I had not been considering it as a medicine.  However, my ability to sleep was really amazing!  That was what kept me interested enough to start the plethora of research that led to this blog!  I was sleeping!  That was HUGE!  I usually got no more than about 10 hours of sleep a WEEK!  Sometimes I would be awake for 7 days straight!  I did not sleep well before marijuana, but had been consistently sleeping since (but was waking up with a little grog)!  So the more research I did, the more I knew what to ask for and how to find it.  I also saw the CBD information which completely made me salivate!  By this time I was almost out of the Nehi Grape (I only bought a joint to vaporize, but it lasted almost 3 weeks.)  I found a store that sold Harlequin and R4, so I decided to head up to Denver.  (I don’t live in an area that allows recreational marijuana sales.)

Whilst in Denver, I was able to get the Harlequin, but I was exposed to Alien OG!  That was the best strain for my insomnia!  No groggy feeling in the morning and continuous, restful sleep!  Finding something that effected me so differently let me see that the different strains all offered different possibilities!  Still though, I was only looking at relief for my insomnia.  UNTIL…

No pharmacy in my entire city had ANY Opana ER.  None.  Some pharmacies mentioned that they had ordered it, only to be shorted that in their shipments.  The soonest any of the pharmacies would get it would be 7 days from that time.  Unacceptable.  I had used the same pharmacy for the last 7 months, but now the DEA decided to short the enitre city of patient’s medicine.  Nice.  I started calling Denver (60 miles away) and the only pharmacy that had it, only had half.  I decided to fill that part, but this fiasco left a bad, bad taste in my mouth.  I didn’t want to half to worry about this any more.  Abruptly stopping Opana ER can cause both respiratory and cardiac arrest.  Running out is a trip to the ER, and not having medication for 7 days is a serious flare in addition to the withdrawal!  There had to be another option.

Doing the research prepared me to actively wean off the oppressive narcotics.  While I am not off ALL narcotics (as you will see), I am off Opana ER, which is HUGE.   The first thing I did was google weaning stories.  Most were written by addicts  and recreational users, anyone who has been on them for a long period of time is physically addicted to them.  Try to glean any important information from these articles.  What worked and what didn’t?  Take notes.  Research what options are available to you, and come up with a treatment plan for after narcotics.  It is easy to say that you want to wean, but you need to work out a plan that both you and your physican are comfortable with.

Once my research was complete enough for this, I presented a plan that I thought might work for me.  I was currently taking Opana ER 60mg daily for long term pain management and tramadol 50mg for breakthrough.  We decided to switch the Opana ER (oxymorphone) for Ultram ER (tramadol) then switch out the tramadol 50’s for oxycodone 10mg.  This would allow me to continue weaning, but have something for breakthrough whilst coming up with a plan for daytime pain management.  I have not told my doctor about using cannabis.  This is a new physician for me, and I don’t know him very well.  Ultimately I would like to address this with him (he is an awesome rheumy, and the apprehension is very unreasonable with this doctor.)

The idea was to reduce the Opana ER by 25% every 5-7 days.  When I got to 20mg, I would switch over to the Ultram ER while replacing my breakthrough medicine with oxycodone 10mg to complete the wean, if possible.  Remember, I can’t take NSAIDS because of my kidneys.  My pharma options are tramadol or narcotics.  This is it.  This last phase is where I am at in the process.  I am off the ER narcotic and down to about 20mg daily of oxycodone.   Basically, I am off 2/3 of narcotics and on a less dangerous one for the other 1/3 of pain management.  Despite the fact that I am not completely off narcotics yet, I am incredibly excited to be able to say that I no longer need 3 pharmacuticals that I had been on for years!

Tips:

  1. Only wean one medicine at a time to see how your body reacts to it.  Not everyone is going to be able to wean, simply because their pain may be too great.
  2. Wean slowly.  Never reduce your opiates more than 25% at a time, and some may require an even slower reduction.  Listen to your body.   If you are using cannabis to ease the withdrawal symptoms, be sure you stay on top of it.  Us ladies know when you let the cramps get super bad, they are harder to stop.  Same principle here.  Don’t let the withdrawal get bad before you use cannabis to treat it, else it will be harder – if not impossible to treat.
  3. For the first few days you lower a dose, you will feel some withdrawal.  The idea is to keep your dosing to where the withdrawal is minor and managable.  You don’t want to reduce so much that you are in a dangerous situation.  Keep in mind you are weaning, and be okay with that taking some time.  Some people take months before getting to where they are comfortable.  Be willing to adjust your dose back up if you have to, and to be on specific reductions longer to allow your body more time to adjust.
  4. When using cannabis to help, it is a good idea for you to be using cannabis about a month before you start the weaning process.  You need to know how you react to cannabis and have found both daytime and nighttime strains/products to meet your needs.  You don’t want to be withdrawing from opiates and experimenting with cannabis regimens at the same time.  First decide if cannabis is right for you – and IT IS OKAY IF CANNABIS IS NOT FOR YOU!
  5. Be okay with what ever end result you have.  Not everyone will get off narcotics.  I am actually not expecting to be able to discontinue ALL my narcotics.  I am a former JRA patient and now have 40 years worth of damage and morphing into that ridiculous autoimmune soup that we all eventually get.  Even if I stay where I am at, 20mg of oxycodone daily, I am super happy with where I am at!