One of the stories in this month’s issue, “Soul Food” (page 24), was sent to me out of the blue. Local writer and chef Deborah L. Costella sent it to me unsolicited. She took the initiative to share it with me because she thought it was “relevant to the issues facing those dealing with serious illness, the people who care for them, and the positive role medicinal marijuana can play in their lives.”
To say the least, I was not ready for it the morning it showed up. I was certainly not prepared to be moved so much by a story that randomly arrived in my in-box on an ordinary Monday.
It was a very personal story for Deborah that depicted her brother’s battle with cancer. Deborah does not know me and so couldn’t have known that I had a similar story. Deborah could not have known how close to home her story would hit me. She had no way of knowing the thoughts and emotions that I kept carefully tucked away would surface so quickly as I knew her pain firsthand. I wasn’t even halfway through her story when I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
It was just one year ago, on August 10, 2016, that my beloved of 10 years, Jason, passed away. Like Deborah’s brother, Jason also died from cancer following a six-year battle. He was the ultimate scrapper and so he gave cancer a really good run for its money. He tried every experimental treatment presented to him by his oncology team. There was nothing he said no to — from trial drugs during his first remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma to cutting-edge immunotherapy — he was always game to try anything as he was a lover of life and wasn’t going anywhere without a fight.
Well, there was one thing he never tried. Try as I might, as much anecdotal evidence as I could find and present, as much as I cajoled and sweet-talked, I was never able get Jason to try cannabis. Even when sleep and appetite had deserted him for weeks at a time, I still couldn’t get him on board. Jason’s oncologist had told him it wasn’t a good idea and out of respect for his doctor’s opinion he was steadfast in his unwillingness to try it.
That was the part of Deborah’s story that felt like a sucker punch. It hadn’t occurred to her to cook cannabis into her brother’s food. I could relate. Why didn’t I just start infusing Jason’s food with cannabis? I certainly had the access and the resources who could show me how. How had something so startlingly obvious not have occurred to me? Short answer: I do not know. And I don’t currently have the emotional bandwidth to process the long answer.
So, like many who will read Deborah’s story, I easily related to her feelings and despairingly identified with her regret. Perhaps our too-late revelation will spark others into making soul food to satiate their beloved.
With an open mind,
Archived “From the Editor”
As we celebrate our nation’s birth and the many freedoms we enjoy this month, there will be one more Nevadans will be able to add to their list. On July 1, Nevada will be the first of the four states that passed recreational or retail marijuana last November to open a legalized marijuana market. Joining Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, Nevada will become the fifth state in the country to legalize the recreational sale of marijuana.
Not only will Nevada’s residents be able to drop by a dispensary and buy a joint, or pre-roll as they are called these days, whenever the mood strikes so, too, will the city’s visitors. A record 42.9 million tourists visited Las Vegas in 2016, and so Nevada’s foray into recreational marijuana will mark the first time a major U.S. travel destination has entered the cannabis market.
The timing of recreational marijuana becoming legal in Nevada is especially meaningful for the nation’s military veterans. This Fourth of July will have special significance for those who have pledged to keep our country safe. With a July 1st start, many military veterans can celebrate this Fourth of July by getting the medicine they need to treat PTSD and other injuries they may have suffered because of their military service while fighting for and protecting the freedoms we all enjoy.
Although medical marijuana has been available to patients in the Silver State since 2000, many military veterans have not felt comfortable applying for a medical marijuana patient card for fear of jeopardizing their federal benefits. Now they will finally have the access they need without having to officially register with the state’s patient portal.
The freedom to enjoy legalized marijuana is not all sparklers and patriotic anthems, it does come with a lot of responsibility. There are a few tips to keep in mind as recreational marijuana rolls out. First, I implore you not to celebrate like this is the last stand at the Texas Alamo − especially if you are interested in trying infused items like brownies and cookies. We don’t want to see your July 4th holiday weekend become memorable for anything other than a fun time and a spectacular fireworks display.
The most important thing to know about edibles is not to eat the whole thing and end up like somebody in an Alka-Seltzer commercial. In most cases, edibles are meant to be shared or ingested over several days. Always enjoy an edible on a full stomach and just have a bite to begin. The suggested amount to start with is 10 milligrams. Wait 30 to 45 minutes before having more to see how your body reacts. Everyone will have a different reaction so proceed cautiously. You should also drink lots of water when you are enjoying cannabis infused treats. Should you accidentally overdo it and have too much THC, you can combat psycho-activity by chewing on black peppercorns or putting a couple of non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol) drops under your tongue.
No matter how you plan to celebrate the holiday, enjoy your friends and family and make it a safe one.
It was one year ago that we published an entire issue dedicated to cannabidiol or CBD. It’s the sister compound to the much better known psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. In pop culture terms, it’s the Bella to Gigi, Tiffany to Ivanka, Solange to Beyoncé, or Pippa to Kate. You get the picture.
We published the CBD issue to educate patients about its many healing properties. While THC has been so well-known for decades for getting users high, it’s CBD that offers patients healing and relief because its medical properties include being anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, anti-oxidant, anti-tumoral/anti-cancer and anti-depressant. In other words, CBD offers a buffet of curative properties while THC is better known as a splashy one-hit wonder.
A year ago when Nevada’s medical cannabis market was focused on THC, our research found that the industry put their resources into producing THC-dominant strains because it was most in demand by Nevada’s patients.
Fast forward a year and patients can definitely find CBD-dominant medicine in their local dispensary, whether it’s in the form of flower, vapes, tincture, edibles, oil or topicals. Even though CBD has become easier to find, it’s still not in the spotlight like THC and that’s because even though the industry has caught up with the benefits of CBD, the public is still in the dark.
With the implementation of adult-use cannabis around the corner, I am often asked to present to various groups about the forthcoming regulations as well as offer a primer on cannabis. I always open my presentation by asking the audience if they know what THC is and also ask the same of CBD. Generally, everyone knows what THC is and most have never heard of its lesser known sibling, CBD.
But that’s changing and CBD’s star is starting to shine. I recently attended the Henderson Art Fest and was very surprised to see a booth with a huge banner advertising CBD oil for pain relief. And although I feel like the public is not generally educated about CBD, there was a steady stream of people at the booth interested in finding out more and buying lots of product. I think it probably helped that the seller was offering samples so buyers could spray or rub oil and lotions on their ailing appendages to see how well it worked for them.
Its nascent popularity will continue to grow as new CBD products are released and the elixir finds its way into everything from suppositories to sunscreen. I will even go as far as to predict that someday CBD will be a daily vitamin we take to keep our endocannabinoid systems in balance. But, until then, Bella, Tiffany, Solange, and Pippa will just have to continue being the lesser-known secret that brings the steady dependability of healing instead of the flashy high that has become a household name.
The 79th Legislative Session of the Nevada State Legislature is in the final stretch. This year’s session ends June 5th. With that date about a month away, key deadlines for legislation to keep moving are looming.
April 14th was the first major deadline for proposed legislation to make it out of committee with a hearing, committee vote or exemption from the legislative deadline. A lot of cannabis bills with serious implications for patients and the industry sailed through the April 14 committee deadline on their way to critical deadlines of April 25th (first house passage) and May 19th (committee passage in second house).
To follow is a list of Senate-sponsored legislative proposals related to cannabis that made it through and will move forward:
SB 236: Allows local governments to permit marijuana lounges and other marijuana consumption licenses for special events.
SB 302: Provides an Early Start for recreational marijuana sales.
SB 329: Among other things, includes a Patient Bill of Rights
SB 341: Lets Nevada’s universities research the effects of cannabis.
SB 344: Places limits on edible marijuana products, including setting a 10-milligram THC per-serving limit as well as prohibit companies from making, selling or using any advertising that would appeal to children such as mascots, cartoon characters, toys, etc.
SB 374: Prevents professional licensing boards, such as for barbers or masseuses, from disciplining members who use marijuana. Also adds opioid addiction to the list of conditions that would qualify a person for a medical marijuana card.
SB 396: Authorizes the growing and production of industrial hemp.
SB 416: Authorizes the formation of apprenticeship programs for medical marijuana establishment agents.
Two Assembly bills have made it out of committee, but are critical to the continued success of Nevada’s burgeoning medical marijuana program.
AB422: Transfers the medical marijuana program to the Department of Taxation; removes patient card application process and allows patients to use a recommendation only; removes requirement to track patient purchases (reduces purchase limit to one ounce similar to adult-use to accommodate lack of tracking); allows physicians to issue recommendations valid for one or two years; eliminates the fee for patient cards; allows potential employees to apply directly to the State to obtain registered agent card and allows them to work while card is pending.
AB463: Adds 15 percent tax to medical at wholesale which is necessary so that establishments won’t need to designate products as medical or recreational and won’t need to keep them separate as in Colorado. Caps local gross revenue tax at 5 percent (currently varies from 0 to 9 percent).
Should you feel strongly about any of these bills and want to your voice to be heard as part of the legislative process, get in touch with your state legislator. You can find their contact info at mapserve1.leg.state.nv.us/whoru/.
When I reflect on the past two years and elevate’s entry into the cannabis space, I am a little bit in awe of the progress that has been made – not just within the industry but also with the American public.
When we started this magazine in April 2015, finding a doctor to interview who had actually treated a patient using cannabis was like finding a unicorn. Even finding patients who wanted to speak about their medical journey using cannabis was rare. When I did find patients who would were willing to tell their story, it was usually on the condition that they share it anonymously.
I am not the only one to notice the progress. When I interviewed Dr. Bonni Goldstein for the March issue of elevate, she shared with me that she had been treating patients with cannabis for nine years and in the last two years she had more referrals from her fellow physicians than in the previous seven years combined. Clearly the tide has turned.
I think that has been helped by the fact that cannabis has become a mainstream topic that is no longer taboo. It has become a part of the entertainment culture with TV shows like HBO’s “High Maintenance,” Viceland’s “Weediquette,” and MTV’s “Mary+Jane,” which was cancelled last year after one season. Premiering this year will be a Netflix sitcom called “Disjointed” starring Kathy Bates. The big screen will also get some cannabis culture of its own with upcoming drama “Humboldt” starring John Malkovich. But, of course, Showtime’s “Weeds” kicked it all off in 2006, running for eight seasons.
With cannabis becoming more and more a part of the cultural Zeitgeist, people aren’t afraid to tell friends, family and neighbors that they have been using a cannabis salve for their arthritis, taking a gummy to combat an unforgiving migraine or giving CBD oil to their child to treat epilepsy or a seizure disorder.
In addition to finding its way into our homes via the small screen and hearing our neighbors discuss its medical benefits, the sky certainly has not fallen and disaster has not struck as cannabis has become legalized in some form in 28 states. Its slow roll into communities across the nation has brought relief to both our military veterans suffering from PTSD resulting from combat and to those communities in the heartland being ravaged by opiate addiction.
Perceptions have changed, acceptance has grown, and stigmas are diminishing. At elevate, we are proud to be a part of that change and continue to educate about the healing properties of cannabis. Thanks for reading and celebrating two years with us.
We have all heard a tale or two about someone’s experience with edibles that went horribly awry. I can personally report no such experience but, aside from eating a few cookies and gummies, I am hardly an expert. However, I have heard the stories.
One that sticks with me is about a friend from Colorado Springs who was at someone’s house for a dinner party and was encouraged to have a cannabis-infused brownie. Her hosts swore by the chef who made the brownies as well as the store they came from telling her they had only had good experiences. After considerable nudging, my friend decided to give it a try. The brownie was way too much for her and she became overmedicated. But she wasn’t the only one. It happened to all of the partygoers. As it turned out, the host had gotten a batch of brownies that had been incorrectly dosed, he alerted the store the next day, and they pulled the product immediately. This incident happened before Colorado implemented lab testing last July so it’s extremely unlikely it would happen now.
My friend recounted that while she was waiting for the cannabis to wear off, she hallucinated that her ankle was like a propeller spinning so wildly she thought it was going to fly off her body. Having heard this story, you can imagine I had no interest when I received an invitation to a cannabis-infused dinner party.
My first reaction was to send a food writer, a professional in food and cannabis, who knew how to handle the subject matter. But then as I considered it, I realized this probably was not going to be the last invite like this I would receive. Dinners like these were going to be something that everybody would, at some point, encounter. I decided rather than avoid it, I should do some research and figure out a practical and smart way for, not just me but, all of us to approach it.
I quickly found that should you ingest too much THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, you can offset its effects with a few drops of CBD or cannabidiol, another part of the cannabis plant. I also discovered that much like drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, it’s not a good idea to eat cannabis-infused food in that condition either. Also, much like drinking alcohol, pacing is critical. Armed with a plan, I decided to go to the dinner (featured on page 10).
I was super anxious about going but ate a late lunch and packed along my CBD oil. While at the party I had shrimp cocktail (7 milligrams), about 30 minutes later I split a stuffed mushroom (6 milligrams) and ate some pork belly topped with chimichurri sauce that had been infused (quantity consumed unknown). Throughout the evening I also grazed on non-dosed items that included vegetables, bread, and meat. At the end of the evening I took a 50-milligram dessert and ate half. I never experienced any psychoactive effects and only felt really happy and was more prone to laughter than usual. It was a fun and safe experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Just like anything else — it’s all about moderation and education.
In December 2015 I toured my first fully operational Nevada cultivation. I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect because I had toured a grow in Boulder, Colorado and I had toured grows in Las Vegas that were newly constructed but didn’t have any plants yet. So this was not new ground for me. What I didn’t expect is that I would encounter a cultivator so passionate about growing cannabis.
As I stood in the middle of one of the grow rooms at Green Life Productions in Pahrump, I listened as Steve Cantwell told me about his technique of using living soil to grow cannabis, explaining to me, “We don’t feed our plants, we actually grow soil organically…rather than feeding the plant, we feed our soil and our soil, in turn, feeds the plant.” I was not familiar with that particular method.
I also hadn’t encountered anyone who used love as an ingredient. “We put a lot of hands-on love on our plants, we interact with the plants, everything is done by hand, and we don’t push buttons and walk away. Everything we do, we do intentionally to love on our plants,” Cantwell told me.
It was at that moment that a sense of déjà vu washed over me. I recalled a very similar conversation that I had with a vintner, who coincidentally was located right down the road and was just as exuberant in her love of growing grapes and making wine. Then the light bulb above my head went off. Surely there had to be quite a few parallels between growing grapes and growing cannabis. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to put Steve Cantwell and Gretchen Loken of Pahrump Valley Winery together to share their zealous passion and knowledge of their craft?
As I thought about the story — well, more like became obsessed with it — I realized the parallels between Green Life Productions and Pahrump Valley Winery were not just related to farming. Beyond the obvious, that both their facilities were located in Pahrump and they were both run by couples, there was the fact that they both were pioneering industries new to Nevada and that each of them had decided to share their knowledge and growing techniques with other farmers in the state. The idea that they could one day collaborate on a canna-wine might have been an ulterior motive in my oenophile heart as well.
And so on that December day the seeds for a story were planted. One year later, we headed to Pahrump to meet with Gretchen and Bill Loken from Pahrump Valley Winery and Steven Cantwell and Kouanin Villa from Green Life Productions. You can read the result of that meeting on page 18, and view the videos we shot that day of the cultivation and vineyard tours, and roundtable discussion at elevatenv.com/nevadagrown and be proud of all the wonderful things that are flourishing in the Silver State.
The DEA’s mid-December surprise to reclassify cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a Schedule I drug was a Christmas present nobody wanted. The cannabis industry already felt like it got a big lump of coal in its stocking when President-Elect Trump picked Alabama Senator Jeff “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions as his presumptive nominee for U.S. Attorney General.
It will certainly be a December to remember, but not just for the industry. The DEA’s new ruling really won’t have much effect on Nevada medical marijuana establishments that grow, produce and sell CBD-based products within the state’s borders. It’s the patients living in states with no legal cannabis laws who will suffer.
Prior to the DEA’s ruling, CBD products, such as Charlotte’s Web most commonly used by patients in the epilepsy and autism communities, were available to patients across the U.S. no matter if they resided in a state that had legalized cannabis or not. With the new ruling those patients, as of January 13th, which is a Friday by the way, will no longer be able to procure the medicine they need to treat the life-threatening seizures they must endure, in most cases, on a daily basis.
But it’s just not the ailing children who will be most affected by the blowback of the DEA’s rule change. CBD oil has anti-emetic, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-cancer, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory effects on patients with nausea, vomiting, seizures, chemotherapy, etc. With properties like that, CBD oil hardly belongs in the same scheduling class as heroin and LSD, of which it will now reside.
I spoke with one local dispensary owner who, calling the DEA’s decision a shame, was planning to stock up on the CBD products she gets from outside of Nevada before the January deadline makes it illegal to transport it over
One has to wonder what machination was behind the DEA’s sudden decision to reclassify a medicine that has no psychoactive effect and plenty of anecdotal evidence for bringing tremendous healing and relief to those who are suffering. All I can think of is that with Christmas in the air and “It’s a Wonderful Life” playing in the background, the DEA must have found the idea of living in Pottersville more attractive than Bedford Falls.
Over the last several months I had the opportunity to attend many community events and forums related to ballot question #2 and the legalization of cannabis for adult use. During those many events one of the most pervasive objections to legalizing adult use marijuana that always came up — without fail — was the idea that cannabis is a gateway drug.
I was falsely under the impression that this particular piece of fiction had been identified as such and put to bed a while ago. But, alas, it still follows marijuana around today and it will continue to follow the plant until we start to educate people differently.
The genesis of cannabis as a gateway drug began in the ‘70s when Dr. Denise Kandel received money from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study marijuana as a possible gateway drug. Dr. Kandel decided to expand her research to also include alcohol and tobacco.
During an interview with NPR in April 2015, Dr. Kandel said, “When I did the analysis, I found that there was a certain sequence that young people seem to be following when they got involved in drugs. They did not start with marijuana, but they started with drugs that are legal for adults in the society, such as beer and wine and cigarettes, other forms of alcohol.”
Her study also concluded that the nicotine in tobacco was the gateway drug as it primed the brain for addiction. So from the beginning the idea of cannabis as a gateway drug was never even true, yet, in spite of that it has been perpetuated as such for the last 40 years.
If you do not believe science or that Dr. Kandel’s study has been twisted into sheer fantasy for the last four decades as a crutch for legalization opponents, consider the more practical thoughts of policy expert John Hudak of the Brookings Institution.
“This idea that marijuana is a gateway drug has been proven absolutely false. Here’s how there is a gateway effect with marijuana. It’s not something chemical, it’s not something biological, it has nothing to do with the plant. It has to do with the black market,” Hudak explained during an interview with C-SPAN on October 31.
“When an individual is going to a drug dealer to access marijuana, he is also being exposed to other harder drugs, and drug dealers have a very useful and hard bargaining way to drive someone away from marijuana where they get a much lower profit margin toward something much more addictive and much harder with a much higher profit margin.
“That social effect is the gateway effect – it is not the drug itself. If you stop selling marijuana off of the streets and in controlled dispensaries where you only have access to one product, that should resolve this gateway effect that is a myth that is constantly perpetuated in this country.”
And so, perhaps, with the legalization of adult use cannabis last month in Nevada, this long-running fabrication will finally be eradicated along with the black market.
Earlier this year, in the May issue of elevate, I was lamenting the lack of CBD-dominant medicine in the Nevada marketplace. At the time, it seemed that everything being grown was geared toward those looking for medicine with a high THC number. Finally, it seems, CBD-rich medicine has become available in the dispensaries. From capsules and tinctures to oils and topicals, there is a plethora of choices from which Nevada’s patients can select.
With that development in mind, I am very pleased to tell you that this month our product review is focused on CBD or cannabidiol, which is the cannabinoid that offers healing without the high. You will find Justin Alexander’s review of various CBD-dominant products on page 7.
This is a good sign that Nevada’s cannabis industry is maturing as it begins to offer more of a variety of both THC and CBD products to the state’s nearly 25,000 patients. Some of those patients include military veterans, which brings me to another story in this issue found on page 17. It’s a story I am particularly passionate about because it deals with veterans and their ability to get safe access to cannabis. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, many veterans have not pursued registering with the state of Nevada for their medical marijuana cards for fear of jeopardizing their VA benefits.
I find it ironic that veterans who fought for our freedom can’t freely use cannabis to treat the injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) they suffered as a result of their service to our country. I interviewed several veterans and was horrified to listen as they recalled their experiences of becoming addicted to opiates as a result of being prescribed the typical “VA cocktail” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to treat their conditions. One veteran described his experience of quitting opiates as akin to being a heroin junkie going through withdrawal.
Just to put it in perspective for you, there were almost 19,000 drug overdose deaths in 2014 attributable to prescription pain relievers like those included in the VA cocktail, but not one death from cannabis. Additionally, with 22 veterans committing suicide every day as a result of PTSD, don’t they deserve better? It is unfortunate that because of the way the federal government views cannabis, it puts our military heroes in a position to have to choose between paying rent and putting food on their table or medicating with cannabis to deal with the drastic impacts of PTSD on their lives.
U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus also weighs in on this topic in her OP-ED piece found on page 21. Congresswoman Titus is working with her colleagues in Congress to remove the current barriers preventing veterans from having conversations with their doctors about accessing medical marijuana. She is diligently working to pass the Veterans Equal Access Act, H.R. 667, legislation that would eliminate current VA policy.
All of this should give you pause as you decide whether you will vote ‘yes’ on Question #2 to regulate marijuana like alcohol on November 8th. If passed, our veterans will get safe access to lab tested cannabis without having to become part of the state’s medical marijuana registry. This is not a trivial matter, as Roberto Pickering, one of the vets I interviewed for my story told me, “Don’t be mistaken, this is a war we are fighting and we can beat it, we really can if we can get veterans the medicine they need.”
A new group recently formed to oppose the passage of Question #2, which will allow Nevada’s voters to determine whether or not cannabis should be legal for recreational use. They announced themselves in mid-September under the moniker Protecting Nevada’s Children. This struck me as an odd stance to take since the entire point of regulating adult-use cannabis is primarily based on that point – protecting Nevada’s children. The whole premise of Question #2 is to make cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older and establish a system in which it is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. So I found the group’s particular stance on why cannabis is unacceptable as disingenuous.
During the press conference announcing the newly formed opposition group, they unveiled a list of their supporters which includes Governor Brian Sandoval, Senator Dean Heller, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Reps Joe Heck, Mark Amodei and Cresent Hardy, and the Nevada Resort Association. I respect their beliefs and anti-cannabis stance but I just wish they could have come up with a more fact-driven campaign than promoting their views under the guise of protecting our children.
I think everyone would agree we have a failed Drug War and drug awareness programs on our hands that were nothing more than propaganda campaigns based on falsehoods and stigmas. So why not try implementing a program that regulates cannabis and see if that isn’t a better solution for keeping cannabis out of the hands of children? The elected officials, who have aligned themselves with Protecting Nevada’s Children, owe us a solid intellectual discourse built on facts and statistics that doesn’t play on the emotions of parents. They also owe us a real solution as to how we do protect our children from drugs if Question #2 does not pass.
It is not as if Nevada is a stranger to implementing strong regulatory frameworks and is even especially good at regulating industries that are vice-driven. The state has proven that with both gaming and the adult entertainment industry. It has been proven once again with the implementation of lab testing for the state’s medical cannabis program. Nevada’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health has implemented the most stringent lab testing program for medicinal cannabis in the US. It is such a strong model, many states are duplicating it. Those same lab testing regulations will be implemented for adult-use cannabis.
According to Pew Research, nearly half (49%) of Americans say they have tried cannabis, making it clearly obtainable but most likely not lab tested. So why not regulate it so that it is lab tested and patients as well as recreational users can safely use cannabis that is free of pesticides, heavy metals and labeled with accurate THC and CBD amounts? Wouldn’t we rather have some oversight over the recreational cannabis market than not? And, at the very least, shouldn’t we have the tax money? According to the Economic and Fiscal Benefits Analysis, it is estimated to be $20 million per year for Nevada’s schools alone.
The decision is clearly with voters, but I think our political leaders should put their money where their mouth is and give us a realistic and viable solution, not just a campaign slogan, as to how they are going to protect Nevada’s children.
“Aging is out of your control. How you handle it, though, is in your hands.” –Diane Von Furstenberg
Amen to that. As I write this it’s my birthday so I am totally Zen to this train of thought. Exercise, plenty of sleep, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are the keys to aging gracefully and the best solutions to the many age-related challenges that may strike.
If you have let these healthy lifestyle essentials get away from you and have encountered age-related infirmities such as glaucoma, hypertension, diabetes and pain from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia, there’s an answer you might not have considered — cannabis.
In fact, it’s something more and more seniors are using. Those 55-and-older are now the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis users in the country with consumption by this age group up 53 percent. Explaining the marked uptick in cannabis use is the fact that 25 states now have access to medical cannabis – and of course, much more importantly, that it works.
It makes sense that more and more seniors would find value in cannabis. Not only is it a product of Mother Nature but it’s safe, quick, and effective in dealing with the deficiencies of an endocannabinoid system (eCB) that is off balance, which is one of the biggest issues we face as we grow older. A deficient eCB results in many of the conditions and ailments brought on by aging. Diet and exercise are two key ways to get your eCB back in balance but an alternative way, as many seniors are quickly growing hip to, is using medical cannabis.
Through the use of cannabis, many seniors are solving their health problems while simultaneously eliminating pharmaceuticals from their lives. In Nevada many seniors are seeking out the health benefits of cannabis. The proof is in the numbers. Even though Nevada’s dispensaries only started opening last August, there’s been a marked increase of seniors in the Silver State who have sought out cannabis. As of June 30th, 7,675 of the 19,774 medical marijuana patient cardholders in Nevada are 55 years of age and older.
And people aren’t just seeking out cannabis for common oldster maladies like arthritis and pain. There’s new research just out from the Salk Institute that cannabis is a neuroprotectant against Alzheimer’s disease. As reported by Forbes, “Researchers discovered that the main psychoactive compound in marijuana—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—and a few other active compounds remove amyloid beta proteins from lab-grown neurons. Amyloid is the toxic protein known to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The compounds also significantly reduced cellular inflammation, an underlying factor in the disease’s progression.”
That’s not just big news for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, but the start of many important discoveries researchers and scientists will make that can positively affect an array of brain related diseases that afflict us as we age.
So do yourself a favor, listen to Ms. von Furstenberg, do some research or even visit a dispensary, many of them have incredible education programs, and find out about cannabis and its potential to help you not only live your life to the fullest as you age, but thrive while you are doing it.
Total unabashed warriors. I spent a week in May with some of the fiercest people I have ever come across – a group of people who have stopped at nothing to outmaneuver every roadblock placed in their path to find a way to help those most precious to them. I met them at an AutismOne 2016 conference in Chicago they were attending in search of answers for their autism afflicted children.
One mother I met had left her job as the family’s breadwinner to care fulltime for her child who was severely autistic and epileptic (30% of autistic children also suffer from epilepsy). To cut costs Bree and her husband had sold their home and moved into a 900-square-foot condominium and were sharing a car. Even though it’s a fulltime job taking care of her child, Bree frequently finds the time and energy to visit legislators in Des Moines to lobby them about legalizing medical cannabis in Iowa.
I met a set of parents from California who took the meaning of warrior to a whole new level. They started their own pediatric autism collective in California after they became concerned about how the medicine they were buying from their local dispensary was being grown. Maria Coombs and her husband Nathan, two of the collective’s founders, have two autistic sons.
“We are first the parents of children with disabilities, and then we are growers,” Maria told me. “Autism came first and I was like I need to do something because nothing is working so that’s literally how that came about. I told my husband, ‘I need to grow, I need to do this. I need to find something that’s working for my son or I am not going to be able to do day-to-day life.’”
She continued, “It was 13 years of sheer hell watching our son rip his face apart, bang his head against a wall, and it can be helped with just a matter of growing a plant. Autism itself is a complete horror and cannabis just kind of takes the edge off. He still has autism but he’s calm all day long.”
Maria also sees the parents who seek medicine through her collective as warriors.
“These parents are bad asses. It’s really neat watching a parent from the beginning — once they get on their way, they know how to order, and they become experts. It is remarkable when I listen to the parents when they are ordering and telling me I want the high CBD mixed with this or a little bit of this for the day and this for the night. They are just wonderful, they become educated about cannabis, they come to understand it. It’s amazing.”
Yes, it sure is. The entirety of Maria’s amazing story begins on page 12.
Since we first began publishing Elevate Nevada more than a year ago, I have been eager to do a Doctor’s issue. As we covered various medical issues during the last year from epilepsy, PTSD, cancer, and diabetes to neuropathy, migraines, and concussions (to name only a few) that cannabis is used to treat, I wanted to provide readers with a local resource who could provide the necessary medical guidance.
But because cannabis is still federally illegal, there are not a whole lot of people who have the luxury of risking their very hard earned medical licenses. Additionally, because it is a Schedule 1 drug, which makes it a tough prospect to study and test, access to research makes it challenging to knowledgably treat patients interested in medicating with cannabis.
In turn, medical knowledge and expertise regarding specific conditions and illnesses was a fairly significant puzzle piece that has always been missing in each issue. So I continued to put off publishing a Doctor’s issue.
But on April 15 I was heartened to see that a group of more than 50 physicians, including a former surgeon general and faculty members at some of the nation’s leading medical schools, announced the formation of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR). DFCR is the first national organization of doctors to call on states and the federal government to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in the interest of public health.
The group’s website acknowledges that: Until recently, many physicians have been reluctant to publicly voice their opposition to the war on marijuana, lest they appear to condone recreational cannabis use and violate their ethical responsibility to “do no harm.” But through daily immersion in anecdotal patient experience and scientific evidence,
many knowledgeable American physicians recognize:
- Use of cannabis by healthy adults is generally benign, making its prohibition unnecessary.
- Cannabis is far less harmful for adults than alcohol and tobacco, which are both legal because of the impracticality of prohibiting so-called ‘soft’ drugs.
- Cannabis can be harmful to minors, but prohibition doesn’t prevent children and teens from accessing the drug.
- The burden of cannabis prohibition falls disproportionately upon communities of color and the nation’s poor.
“So in spite of the fact I only knew a handful of medical professionals working in Nevada’s cannabis space, I decided it was, indeed, the perfect time for a Doctor’s issue with the tide turning, common sense prevailing, and physicians, like those who are a part of DFCR, taking a stand.
It’s the right time because, perhaps, if physicians on the fence about medical cannabis recognized the strides being made by their colleagues, more doctors would be open to learning about this miracle plant for the sake of their patients.
Archived May 2016
Last month the cannabis community was abuzz (forgive the pun) with the announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would decide in the first half of 2016 if it would reclassify marijuana. Rescheduling cannabis from schedule I to schedule II would move it from being lumped in with heroin, LSD and ecstasy to the company of Ritalin, Adderal and oxycodone.
Its reclassification would also allow medical researchers to more easily conduct scientific study of cannabis’ medicinal benefits. Since 2010, an average of nine researchers a year was approved to conduct studies using cannabis from the federal government’s University of Mississippi marijuana farm.
In a Washington Post article, cannabis policy expert John Hudak of the Brookings Institution said the small number of researchers working with marijuana is less a function of the government turning down applications, and more a function of an onerous, convoluted application process — one that requires approval from multiple government agencies and deters academics from even pursuing this type of research. “People just aren’t applying because of all the headaches involved,” Hudak explained to the Post. “It’s a huge disincentive for the academic community.”
The medical community supports any chance to relieve the research burdens on cannabis. The American Medical Association told ABC News that the group backs the review “to help facilitate scientific research and the development of cannabinoid-based medicines. While studies related to a limited number of medical conditions have shown promise for new cannabinoid-based prescription products, the scope of rigorous research needs to be expanded to a broader range of medical conditions for such products.”
Although the ability to do more research on cannabis is hugely beneficial for patients, rescheduling the plant does come with a downside – more government oversight – which takes us right back to the drawing board. If the federal government determines that the FDA should become involved in cannabis’ regulation, products requiring FDA approval could languish for years as they wait to jump through FDA hoops, not to mention the almost $1 billion dollar product-approval process.
But, in spite of potential for FDA oversight, some are still optimistic.
“It’s past due for the DEA to reconsider marijuana’s status. I am hopeful that antiquated ideology won’t continue to stand in the way of science and that the DEA will reschedule marijuana to schedule II,” U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement after the DEA’s announcement.
Sen. Gillibrand is not the only one who sees the federal government’s view of cannabis as antiquated. Last month Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical cannabis, which means more than half of all Americans will live in a medical marijuana state. That speaks volumes.
But in the end, none of the fuss about rescheduling really matters. As prolific cannabis breeder DJ Short told me last year when we’re discussing federal prohibition, “we (referring to the medical cannabis community) are seeping in from the sides.”
Archived “From the Editor”
It’s only been one year since I began receiving my Ph.D.-level education on the cannabis plant.
At times it has been beyond incredibly challenging, such as when I have had to delve into the science behind the plant, which is tedious to understand on its own. But, additionally, there is so very little of it in the U.S. because of cannabis’ classification as a Schedule 1 drug which makes it illegal to research.
While other times it has been incredibly rewarding, such as when we featured six-year-old Avery Spadafora in our June/July 2015 issue, whose family moved from Nevada to Colorado so she could start taking CBD oil for ongoing seizures.
I checked in with Avery’s father, Jon Spadafora, in March and he reports almost a year later that “the frequency and severity of Avery’s seizures continue to decline, and she is making great progress as a result. Between Hailey’s Hope and the medical care that we have received in the past 18 months, the move to Colorado was one of the best decisions we have made as a family.”
Avery’s story was the one that first got my attention as to just how much cannabis can change someone’s or, in her case, the lives of an entire family. Avery had been living with nightly seizures for five years and had been to the best pediatric neurologists across the U.S. who, by the way, not only were never able to diagnose her, but never found a pharmaceutical or other treatment that could put a halt to her seizures. Out of desperation her parents turned to cannabis oil to find their child relief.
And that’s what got me hooked. That something as simple as a plant could save a child’s life was very powerful to me. To think a plant that had been demonized for decades could bring a family hope and a young girl relief from a body that had turned on her was astonishing. It was a fascinating story for me to write and it launched my cannabis journey.
There’s no denying cannabis has given comfort and even healed a great many as I continually find out month after month in story after story that we detail in these pages. Sometimes, I am even too incredulous to believe the stories that I hear could be true. And then the lab reports are produced and I see where anecdotal evidence meets science as I review actual MRIs and lab tests that show cancerous tumors that have shrunk in half or even disappeared.
It’s truly been gratifying to share with you the many facets of cannabis and the range of conditions and diseases it can treat while attempting to turn the stigma cannabis has endured for far too long into a legitimate medicine that those who need it can take with impunity.
I had intended for this column to be about the most interesting things I learned about cannabis in the last year. But I think it’s more important to offer one general observation: the taboo surrounding cannabis needs to be eliminated so people who are sick and ailing will seek the relief and healing they need free of judgment and shame.
Although Nevada is still very much in the infancy stage of the burgeoning medical cannabis industry, the state’s growers aren’t quite the neophytes many may think. Two Southern Nevada-based growers have already shown their cultivating prowess, winning
High Times’ much-coveted Cannabis Cup.
NevadaPure was the most recent winner, taking home the 2016 SoCal Medical Cannabis Cup just last month. The local cultivation, production and dispensary center housed in a 70,000-square-foot facility on Boulder Highway won first place for Best CBD Concentrate with its Goji D.C. and took third place for Best Medical Non-Solvent Hash for Kookies.
“It is beginner’s luck,” modestly admitted co-owner Kathy Gillespie of NevadaPure’s Medical Cannabis Cup win, adding, “I think it really puts Nevada, and especially Clark County, on the map.”
Gillespie and her team didn’t make it to the Cup because they thought they were too much of a longshot. “We just thought the odds of us winning — being a newbie, let alone the first one in Nevada to enter — a first and a third would be unheard of and uncalled for but we have some excellent growers and cultivators down here who have excellent eyes. I didn’t do it on my own.”
The team’s expertise shows. “I had been working with our head grower on this for six months to pick a strain that we really liked. One that I had in my home and had been growing and looking at and feeling really warm and fuzzy about,” explained Gillespie, who has a degree in horticulture.
But Gillespie had more than awards on her mind when she started developing the winning CBD concentrate. “There’s a lot of challenges with the existing CBD strains — they don’t yield well, when they are cultivated they grow long and straggly and stringy, which all results in them being very costly for the patients. One of my goals in developing this strain and this germ plasm was to try and develop a higher yielding CBD strain that also yielded a higher CBD concentrate percentage and obviously I got real, real lucky the first time.”
Greenway Medical, a cultivation located in North Las Vegas, has won eight Cannabis Cup awards since they started entering the competition in 2011 from their home base in Denver. Most impressively, Greenway’s Ghost Train Haze #13 was the first place winner of High Times’ U.S. Cannabis Cup for Best Sativa in 2015.
“That’s the granddaddy of them all because the U.S. Cannabis Cup is open to anyone in the country,” explained Corey Buffkin, Greenway’s Director of Cultivation.
Although Greenway’s winning sativa, Ghost Train Haze #13, will not be available in Nevada, Buffkin promises they plan to grow premium product once they are up and running. “We do a craft beer kind of product, it’s high-end,” said Buffkin, who is hoping to have plants in the ground at their North Las Vegas facility within the next four weeks.
Local dispensary CannaCopia is planning to carry Greenway’s flower as well as display the grower’s U.S. Cannabis Cup in a place of honor. “And that’s the only one anybody has won in Nevada for flower,” added Buffkin. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.
I am a football fanatic. I grew up in Texas where football is practically a religion so there was really no way to avoid developing an almost holy devotion to the game. We spent our Friday nights worshipping the stars of the high school gridiron and praying for victory.
In turn, I am among the many faithful who watch breathlessly each week as our favorite players pull passes out of the air in a manner akin to Cirque du Soleil acrobats, throw Hail Mary passes in the most effortless of ways or sprint like gazelles into the end zone. According to an April 20ı5 Bloomberg Politics poll, 67 percent of Americans name football as the national pastime. This shouldn’t be a surprising stat. After all, the top 2ı most-watched shows of all time are all Super Bowls.
Another Super Bowl is coming up on February 7th and America will once again be collectively transfixed on that Sunday afternoon. As we assemble for the holiest day of the football season, the devil in the room is hard to ignore. With “Concussion” in theaters and the ongoing plague of retired pro athletes, who have suffered brain disease and injury, making headlines, it’s time to take stock of what the sport is doing to our national pastime.
Eighty-seven out of 9ı former NFL players have tested positive for the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, resulting from concussions, according to 20ı5 figures released from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University.
Clearly it’s a problem, so much so that the National Football League implemented safety rules to minimize head-to-head hits, which has helped. In its 20ı5 Health & Safety Report, the NFL reported that concussions in regular season games fell 35 percent over the past two seasons, from ı73 in 20ı2 to ıı2 last season.
But that doesn’t fix the problem. Cannabis may offer another solution. Phyto-medical company Kannalife Sciences has been developing cannabis-based compounds to treat the effects of concussions with an end goal of neural protection. Its therapeutic agent KLS-ı30ı9 may be capable of acting as a neuroprotective agent for the treatment of not just CTE, but also epilepsy, neuropathic pain, traumatic head injury, stroke, Post Cardiac Arrest Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, Epileptic Encephalopathy, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
It’s time to give medical cannabis a chance and not just for our fallen pro athletes, but for all those who are suffering and need help. After all, it could be the revelation that not only saves our idols, but also turns them into disciples as they are healed and spread the good word. It would be the holiest of miracles.
I attended my first cannabis conference last month. Organized and sponsored by Marijuana Business Daily, the 4th annual conference had over 5,500 attendees eager to find out the latest about cannabis. There were plenty of informative seminars and a keynote speech by Ralph Nader, but what I was most fascinated by was the amount of products being developed that cater to the medicinal cannabis market. I found an array of tools and products developed primarily for those patients interested in using CBD, or cannabidiol, which is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits and can counteract the psycho-activity of THC.
One of the more interesting products introduced at the show was a single-use cannabis pod and vaporization system called CannaCloud by CannaKorp. The newly developed system was created to allow patients to vaporize their medicine in less than a minute. Think Keurig but for cannabis instead of coffee. Patients choose a pod of pre-measured cannabis, insert it into the CannaCloud’s travel mug-like canister and press the button to start and, boom, the vessel fills with medicated vapor.
For those who are a unsure of how to approach medical cannabis and what is the correct strain or dosage, there’s virtual bud tender PotBot, potbot.com.
PotBot is a medical cannabis recommendation engine, accessible via kiosks, mobile or desktop app, that guides patients to the appropriate cannabinoid levels, medical cannabis strains, and consumption methods for their specific ailment. Once a recommendation is made, PotBot also helps patients find their recommended cannabis at a nearby dispensary or set up an appointment with a licensed medical cannabis clinic.
There was also an app for fitness buffs who want to integrate cannabis into their exercise routine. Cannafit, cannafit.club, is a health, wellness, nutrition, and fitness web application custom made for the medical cannabis industry that includes THC and CBD dosage tracking and is HIPPA compliant. Cannafit offers users a suite of nutritionist-approved menus and cannabis-infused menus, exercise and nutrition trackers, dosage guides, and physician reporting tools.
Your pets can even get in on the CBD healing action. With a quick sprinkle of medicine on their dog food, Therabis’ Up and Moving helps your four-legged friends with sore joints and mobility. Or perhaps allergies are causing uncontrollable scratching. Again, Therabis has a solution with its Stop the Itch product to help soothe your pet’s skin. And for high-strung pets who are upset by fireworks or become upset when you leave them alone, Calm and Quiet, also designed by Therabis, helps animals keep anxiety at bay.
And that’s just the tip of the cannabis leaf. There were also oral sprays, serums, balms, salves and lotions as well as honey, coffee and hand-crafted chocolates – all medically infused with cannabis oil. This is an exciting time not only in the world of medicating with cannabis, but also with so many products coming to dispensaries in Nevada as they begin to open and expand their product selection.
Novermber – 2015
As Bob Dylan sang in 1964: The times, they are a-changin’. According to a Gallup poll released on October 21, 58 percent of Americans believe cannabis should be made legal. And things are a-changin’ fast too, that number is up 7 percent from just a year ago when Gallup conducted the same poll.
Interestingly enough it was in Dylan’s era that Gallup first asked the question about legalizing cannabis. In 1969, 12 percent of Americans thought marijuana use should be legal, with little change in two early 1970s polls. By the late 1970s, support had increased to about 25 percent, and held there through the mid-1990s. The percentage of Americans who favored making use of the drug legal exceeded 30 percent by 2000 and was higher than 40 percent by 2009.
It’s just not the American public that is changing their collective minds. Presidential candidates are also starting to waver.
During the Democratic presidential debate held in mid-October, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders became the first-ever major-party presidential candidate to express support for legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use. When asked how he would vote on an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol that is set to appear on Nevada’s ballot in 2016, Senator Sanders said he would vote “yes.”
When Hillary Clinton was asked her position on the issue during the same debate she said she supports legal access to medical cannabis but still does not have a position on whether it should be legalized and regulated for adult use. Clinton might not have been as definitive as Sanders but she didn’t rule it out.
The status quo is changing in the Senate and Congress too, however, not with quite the same alacrity as the American public. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act which would have granted VA healthcare providers the ability to recommend medical cannabis for people who served in the military. However, it was defeated. In May, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted in favor of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which is a similar piece of legislation, that still has to pass the Senate floor.
But minds aren’t changing quickly enough. Twenty-two of our military’s veterans commit suicide every day due to the effects of PTSD. It’s an unthinkable number and even more horrendous to know it’s considered low because only half of the states participated in the report.
Cannabis could be the answer to our vets public health crisis but we won’t know without removing its classification by the federal government as a Schedule 1 drug. Due to its Schedule 1 status, not only can research and studies not be funded or conducted, but the use of cannabis can’t be endorsed by the federal government in the healthcare system.
So I leave you with a few lyrics from Dylan’s anthem of change:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall