By Holly Glen Gearhart, Contributing Writer
The cannabis of 2014 isn’t what you smoked in the dorm.
The shift in opinion about marijuana in the country, including multi-state legalization of the medicinal use of the plant and in Washington, for recreational use – may encourage Boomers to try marijuana for the first time or return to cannabis after many decades of non-use.
Whether or not you approve of marijuana, you or someone you know is going to indulge.
This article is an attempt to inform and is not intended to endorse nor encourage use of marijuana, cannabis or its products.
Setting aside the pro- and anti-cannabis argument for a moment, if you are considering visiting or revisiting cannabis, you need to know a few things before you walk into your legal “head shop” or medical marijuana dispensary.
This ain’t the pot you knew.
Over the decades the growth and cultivation of marijuana has become refined, strains strengthened, and the product more expensive and more potent than it was in the 1960s and ’70s. In the past you may have bought a mixture of buds and leaves to smoke in rolled cigarettes, water pipes or bongs – not anymore.
Anything other than the bud is usually trimmed away, leaving the most potent part, which retailers sometimes sell in pre-rolled cigarette form. The trimmings, or “shake,” is not as readily available in quantities you can roll or pack on your own. If you are looking for cannabis to smoke in a pipe you’ll buy the bud – the most potent part of the plants.
A little goes a long way.
Medical cannabis, is it good for you? Can it help you? Those are controversial questions, and the answers depend on many variables.
Be advised that, odd as it may sound, medical marijuana is mostly unregulated. No one examines it for safety, tests it for toxins, or standardizes and labels it for THC content. That is because those kinds of regulations weren’t included in the voters’ initiative that “legalized” medical marijuana (technically it didn’t legalize it, but rather strengthened the legal defense against prosecution for its use).
Commercial recreational marijuana, if you can get it, is probably a great deal safer, as it is highly regulated from seed to sale.
There are, however, drawbacks to relying on commercial recreational marijuana for medical use.
One is that medical marijuana, when it is grown by conscientious and skilled farmers, is actually bred for its medical properties. Recreational marijuana isn’t. And recreational marijuana tends to be more potent than perhaps you might wish if your only goal is to treat a medical condition.
Also, legal recreational marijuana is harder to get. Green cross signs indicated the presence of a collective, a place where for a “donation” you can purchase THC products and unprocessed marijuana, are all over the place. There is, in fact, one about a mile west of Monroe on US 2 called Hi Way 2 Wellness.
But only some cities have been approved for locations for recreational stores, and of those, many cities, Monroe included, have banned such retailers. That means that unless you are willing and able to drive or send someone to a legal recreational store outside the Sky Valley, collectives are your only option.
Thirdly, commercial marijuana tends to be more expensive and is currently in short supply while growers are still struggling to get licensed, get building and business permits, and grow and harvest their first legal crops.
That said, if you are willing to take the risk of consuming an unregulated product, and you want to get it from a collective, you’ll need a medical marijuana card.
A medical marijuana card must be issued as a prescription from a medical doctor. Not all doctors or clinics write these prescriptions and many who are under a doctor’s care should not use cannabis; your doctor will help you make that determination.
Do be certain that your doctor is reputable; there is some controversy surrounding the issuing of medical marijuana cards. Some doctors, it is said, hand them out to anyone who can produce $150 and fog a mirror.
A good doctor will discuss with you the available science on medical uses of cannabis, possible interactions with other medications, appropriate dosage, possible complications and side effects, and optimal method of ingestion.
The medical benefits of marijuana are also roundly debated. The US Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved its use for any condition, as it points to what it deems a lack of evidence as to its efficacy. Other agencies have cautioned that in its unregulated form, there are too many unknown chemicals in it to properly evaluate it for harm or good.
But it is widely used to treat nausea, pain, poor appetite and even epilepsy. Cancer patients often use it to help offset the nausea, anxiety and poor appetite associated with chemotherapy. Migraine sufferers often report that marijuana eases symptoms. Marijuana is often prescribed to people with HIV/AIDS, although scholarship supporting that use is scant.
People suffering from fibromyalgia, neuropathy and rheumatoid arthritis also report experiencing relief after using marijuana.
And scholarship on the efficacy of cannabinoid products to treat multiple sclerosis and epilepsy is not conclusive, although there is a body of anecdotal evidence in its favor.
In all cases, the benefits are accompanied by the side effect of the effects of the drug on the mind; just as with an opiate, if you use it to treat a condition, you will also probably experience some level of intoxication. Some people like that, others don’t. Some don’t care for it but find it worthwhile for the benefits derived.
Upon one thing nearly all medical agencies agree; inhaling smoke into your lungs is never a good thing. Doctors tend to recommend ingesting THC products orally. Another possibly less harmful means of ingesting THC is in the use of vapor, using the same mechanism as an electronic cigarette, and the apparatus can typically be gotten at larger collectives, at recreational retailers, and even at some tobacco stores.
Almost all outlets, medical or recreational, stock edible products, and the selection is vast; find everything from treated goldfish crackers to infused gummy bears.
You should know the amounts of the THC products before you buy; that is, how many milligrams of the active substance are in a serving, what a serving is, and how many milligrams your doctor thinks you might need to derive medical benefit.
Also be advised! Edible products take a lot longer to produce a psychoactive effect than do smoked or otherwise inhaled products! It is easy to ingest some, think after half an hour that you’ve experienced nothing and therefor need a higher dose, and then consume more only to find yourself all but incapacitated in two hours.
Your personal tolerance is impossible to predetermine and it is advised to try bud or edibles a little at a time.
If you aren’t terribly familiar with marijuana, when you get to an outlet, you might notice that marijuana is often designated either indica, sativa or some hybrid thereof. Indica and sativa are the two main species of marijuana, and they are thought to have somewhat differing properties.
Indica has been found to be higher in a cannabinoid called CBD, which research suggests is responsible for at least some the medical benefits of marijuana. Cannabinoids are chemicals particular to cannabis, but not all of them are psychoactive, and CBD doesn’t get the user high.
CDB has shown promise is some studies as a way to reduce coughing, nausea, anxiety, inhibit the growth of cancer cells, reduce inflammation and treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Sativa strains are higher in THC relative to CBD than is indica, and therefor is preferred by recreational (and medical) users who like a stronger high. THC also plays a role in appetite stimulation (the notorious “munchies” associated with smoking pot). Reported effects of THC include an uplifted feeling and may include euphoria, a happy and relaxed feeling, creativity, lethargy, and enhanced sense. Be aware, however, that some people can experience significant anxiety from using either strain, especially if overdoing the dose.
Search the Internet for information on cannabis, store locations and hours of operation. Learn more about the cannabis available today at sites such as http://www.leafly.com.
In general remember: possession and use of cannabis and its products are legal only in Washington and Colorado. That is, on a federal level, marijuana is still illegal, but Washington and Colorado have decided to refuse to prosecute. You may not carry pot nor products containing THC over state or international lines. Yes, you can get busted.
Companies are allowed to test for marijuana at any time they wish; you may lose your job or be disqualified for employment depending on the policies of a given company.
The effects of today’s marijuana and its products typically last 10-12 to twelve hours, more or less; people process THC at different rates. There is no hard and fast rule except for this; be wise. If you are going to try cannabis it is best to set aside a time where you will not be required to drive a car or operate equipment or any other activities which demand your full attention.
This article is an attempt to inform and is not intended to endorse or encourage use of marijuana, cannabis or its products. But it is now your right to use it for whatever reason you like. Just please use it responsibly; don’t smoke around kids or in public, don’t drive high, and moderation remains key.
Check out the latest legal information about Washington State marijuana law online: http://access.wa.gov do a search for the latest legal decisions on cannabis for recreational and medical use.