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Cannabis Basics

The Sunshine State is moving in the right direction and is working to provide regulated and safe access to this remarkably beneficial plant. Read on for an overview of cannabis basics for new patients just like you.

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A Brief History

Cannabis has been used for thousands of years, dating back to Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C.1 Before Nixon’s war on drugs, cannabis was grown for the use of rope, clothing and fiber in North America. It’s been over 80 years since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed, which made possession or transfer of marijuana illegal throughout the United States under federal law. There are now over 30 states with cannabis legalization and a recently passed Farm Bill that allows the growth of hemp for industrial use.

In 1992, Raphael Mechoulam discovered the Endocannabinoid System (ECS—a complex receptor system found in humans and animals designed to respond to the active compounds found in the cannabis plant. The ECS has been recently recognized as possibly the most important modulatory system in the body that regulates the functioning of the brain, endocrine, and immune tissues, as well as creating and supporting homeostasis of the body’s cells. Because the ECS is designed to regulate the body’s functions, it comes as no surprise cannabis helps with so many conditions. Since its discovery, research continues to enlighten us on how and why cannabis has played such a pivotal role in the health and well-being of humans for such a long period of time.

Cannabinoids, the Entourage Effect, and Full Spectrum medicine

Though hemp and marijuana have very different properties, both come from the cannabis plant. The terms hemp and marijuana are typically used to describe the difference in THC content. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of hundreds of known cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is most commonly recognized as the psychoactive compound in cannabis that causes the “high” affect.

Hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, is any plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC. But despite THC’s popularity and prevalence, it is not the only beneficial cannabinoid present in cannabis.

CBD (cannabidiol) is another cannabinoid found within the plant and does not produce a psychoactive effect. CBD can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana, and it exists in some products in its isolated form. Other cannabinoids, including CBN, CBG, THCa, and others are being researched and found to contain their own unique therapeutic properties. In Florida, however, the most commonly-used cannabinoids in retail products are THC and CBD.

When isolated, CBD and THC can have wonderful healing properties, they work even better used together in their whole-plant forms. Products that utilize all of the naturally-occurring cannabinoids and other properties of the plant are called Full Spectrum products. In the same way that eating an orange is healthier for you than drinking only the juice, full spectrum products offer a broader range of healing benefits by way of a natural phenomenon called the Entourage Effect. This means that CBD and THC are excellent on their own—but when combined, they work even better.

Full spectrum products also include other compounds in the cannabis plant: all cannabinoids, essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, chlorophyll, flavonoids, and terpenes, for example. Just like with nutrition, the less processed and more natural the plant medicine is, the more effectively it can provide benefits.

Florida Law

While dispensaries in other legal states offer hundreds of different strains, concentrates, edibles, topicals, tinctures, patches, sublingual products and more, Florida residents are still limited in their offerings due to restrictive laws and controversial politics.

After integrating the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, Florida allowed qualified patients in the state to obtain “low-THC cannabis.” In order to qualify as low-THC, the flowers, seeds, resin and any other product derived from the cannabis plant had to contain 0.8 percent or less of THC and more than 10 percent CBD by weight.

The statute was amended in 2016 to include all levels of THC marijuana, termed “medical cannabis.”

With the increasing growth of knowledge and education, the beneficial impact patients could see when allowed to utilize the important cannabinoid THC without restrictions is crucial. Growth is constant and progression is visible, which gives hope to those affected by the limitation of the laws.

Common Consumption Methods

One of the most commonly-asked questions about cannabis is how and where to begin comfortably. Fear of feeling “too high” or experiencing no relief are common amongst patients. Knowing how different products affect the body is important to understand where to begin. Remember: each individual endocannabinoid system is unique. Different cannabis products will affect each individual differently based on absorption, bioavailability, and countless other variables.

Take edibles, for instance. Edibles often have a stronger perceived effect because the body converts the cannabinoid THC into 11-hydroxy-THC when metabolized by the liver—in simpler terms, this means your body absorbs orally-ingested medicine differently than it absorbs inhaled medicine, and the effects of each delivery method will therefore be different. Edibles may take up to an hour or more to absorb and the effects to be felt, and it may last longer than inhaled cannabis.

There are variations in potency, up to 15 percent in some products, which is something to keep in mind when consuming. Liquid products, such as tinctures, are measured in milliliters and will have a ml serving size and its cannabinoid equivalent for consumers to correctly dose. Tinctures are best to drop sublingually, or under the tongue to infuse the herb directly into the bloodstream. These can also be used to infuse drinks or smoothies, depending on the consumers’ preferences.

For many, vaporized cannabis flower is the preferred consumption method. Inhalation of cannabis provides a fast-acting effect and is popular amongst patients who need immediate relief. Cannabis flower is available in hundreds of different cultivars, or strains, in other legal states—and Florida is beginning to boast some of its own unique strains from local cultivators as its medical industry grows.

Each strain of cannabis has its own unique cannabinoid and terpene profile, and each profile offers a subtly different medicinal effect. Research on terpenes (the essential oils found in cannabis that house therapeutic benefits) suggests that our natural attraction to certain terpene profiles in the scent of cannabis can provide us with information on what strain may be best for our condition. As the saying goes, “Your nose knows.” Smelling your cannabis in its whole flower form is one of the best ways to choose your medicine. Since our sense of smell is so unique and different and cannabis has a huge array of profile combinations, you’ll know when you smell the terpenes if you’re into the particular flower. If you smell a strain and are drawn to it, chances are that your body will respond positively to its effects. Alternatively, if you are turned off by the scent of a product, steering clear may be the best option.

In most medical and recreational states, as well as some Florida dispensaries, patients are presented will “smell jars,” or small containers of sample products to view and smell to make sure that the product is free of pests, pesticides, and other contaminants. Smelling also provides the body with the knowledge it needs to choose strains effectively. Without this access, it is very difficult for a patient to determine the quality of what is going into their medicine.

Because not all dispensaries offer the opportunity for a patient to view and smell their product before purchase, deciding which strain to consume can be a daunting and overwhelming task for new patients. If your dispensary does not offer this option, ask the manager to consider providing this beneficial service to patients.

Thankfully, Florida is moving towards more reasonable access laws for patients, and it is important that patients lend their voice to protect their right to transparency around the production of their medicine. In the meantime, it is beneficial for patients to educate themselves on the basics of cannabinoid and terpene science to help determine which strains and terpene profiles may be best for them.

Vaporizers are another growing choice for health-conscious consumers due to their discretion in delivery. Small size and lack of odor make them popular amongst those who need fast-acting relief and anonymity. Concentrates, however, come with their own set of challenges.

It is important to remember that concentrates are concentrated forms of cannabis. There are several extraction methods used to create concentrates, each with its own set of health hazards. The use of solvents or CO2 in extraction practices are controversial—many of the products used to create solvents contain thinning agents and additives with proven health risks attached. It is important to remember that the state of Florida has no regulation or testing requirements around the use of many of these hazardous chemicals in the production of cannabis concentrate products.

In addition, concentrates are typically much more potent than flower products. Flower potency usually ranges between 10-25 percent THC. A concentrate, however, may have 50-80 percent THC or more. Knowing your tolerance and desired effects can help you decide which product is best for you.

Dosing

One of the most common answers everyone wants to know is how much should be consumed for a dose. Unfortunately, dosing with cannabis is a process that requires individual attention, experimentation, and time. However, a good cannabis physician can help you determine where a good starting point is for you.

The best advice for cannabis patients is to follow your marijuana doctor’s recommendation. However, the old adage still applies: “Start low, go slow.” Monitoring the effects and dosage of each product through journaling will also help you find your ideal dose. By slowing self-titrating (or adjusting your dose as necessary) and keeping track in your journal of what products have the desired effect, you’ll be able to effectively dose based on your comfort levels. Remember: each Endocannabinoid system is different, and each individual will respond to different doses and delivery methods in their own unique way. Until research offers us more insight on how to approach dosing in a more streamlined manner, it is up to the patient and their doctor or educator to spend the time getting to know which dosing procedures are best suited to the ailment.

References

  1. https://www.deamuseum.org/ccp/cannabis/history.html

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Dr. Melanie Bone – Cannabis Industry Physician and Educator

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Women in cannabis are affecting the industry in powerful ways. They are leading the industry in executive roles that exceed other industries. Many are sharing their knowledge and expertise to educate and empower others. 

Dr. Melanie Bone is one of the women driving the industry forward as a physician and educator in West Palm Springs, Florida. She is a board-certified gynecologist, robotic surgeon, and medical cannabis practitioner. 

She sees women, men, and children and certifies them for medical cannabis. Dr. Bone works with her patients to maintain total body health by finding a role for cannabis, in addition to diet, exercise, and mind-body work.

Dr. Bone sat down with Florida Grass Roots Magazine to tell us about her journey to cannabis as medicine through a family health crisis.  She also shared with us her goals for the future of her practice and cannabis.

Cannabis medicine was not always a part of Dr. Bone’s practice. She discovered one of her five children, Carlton, was overusing cannabis as a teenager. Because of Carlton’s overuse of cannabis, Dr. Bone and her husband decided to send him to a wilderness program to try to help. 

“Carlton was given a mood stabilizing medication and ultimately developed Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a rare, life-threatening reaction which causes the body to look and act like it has been burned,” Dr. Bone said. 

Carlton was in the Intensive Care Unit and Dr. Bone said that she was “Vowing to bring an alternative to the drug that caused the disease.” 

Afterwards, it was clear how cannabis was helping her son treat his social anxiety, and she began to study the benefits of cannabis for anxiety as well as many other conditions. With the support of Carlton, Dr. Bone opened her own practice in Florida. 

Her practice is devoted to improving the lives of people of all ages through the use of cannabis. Her specific area of interest is the “intersection of women’s health and cannabinoids, both for treatment of disease states and for global wellness.”  She treats women of all ages and has an interest in managing menopause symptoms with bio identical hormones and natural plant medicines. 

Her mission as an educator is to provide guidance and support to her patients, especially to those with no experience with cannabis. One of her passions is to educate her patients about their Endocannabinoid Systems (ECS) and how it interacts with the cannabis plant. After office hours, Dr. Bone spends her time fulfilling her mission by presenting lectures to her colleagues or speaking about topics from cancer to medical cannabis patients. She is dedicated to educating others and offers second opinions to patients all over the United States. 

She plans to continue her work with leaders in the industry, and she has plans to develop a line of products utilizing cannabinoids for her patients’ overall health and wellness. Dr. Bone’s goals for her future are to continue learning about cannabis as medicine and to educate others to improve the quality of life for millions around the world.

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The Weed Warrior

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Utilizing the discipline she deployed as a U.S. Marine, Caroline Covone wakes up at 6 o’clock every morning in Southwest Florida and makes a piping-hot pot of coffee with a few drops of Girl Scout Cookies tincture in her mug to help with near-constant pain resulting from multiple unsuccessful knee surgeries. She then makes a fresh, healthy lunch from scratch for her daughter, complete with fruits and vegetables cut in fun shapes. 

Before the family wakes up, she tidies the household getting everything ready for the day. When her daughter wakes up, she feeds her breakfast and takes her to school. Caroline then ventures to the gym to work out, followed by physical therapy. She focuses on her physical well-being by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, believing that if you take care of your body it will take care of you. She smears CBD cream on her leg or takes a few drags from her vape pen to mitigate her pain. An individual with a strong motor, medical marijuana is the only pain relief that allows her to keep her high-functioning fast pace. 

As devoted as she is to taking care of herself and her family, she is equally dedicated to helping others. Covone spends her free time volunteering with military veterans. She primarily works with The Grateful Veteran organization which, among many other services, assists veterans by getting them off of addictive opiates and on to medical marijuana to soothe their ailments; she is a weed warrior.

Covone spent four years as a Marine, enlisting straight out of St. Bartholomew Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. “As soon as I could, I did.” 

She became adamant about joining the service 18 years ago. Nuns pulled students out of class and ushered them into the cafeteria to inform them that the twin towers of the World Trade Center had fallen and America was under attack. Covone had a friend at the time whose father worked in one of the buildings. She recalls the girl getting picked up by her mother in tears and never seeing her friend again. 

That “shook me to my core,” she said, because she couldn’t understand why all those innocent people died. As she got older, she heard bits and pieces about the incident until she was old enough to take to the Internet and fully learn the grim truth. “I just made my decision and said I’m going to do something,” she said.

Unfortunately, during her time in the service, she experienced non-combat mental trauma and still suffers from PTSD as a result. As is the case for many veterans, she was prescribed multiple medications to combat her diagnosis, then more medication to counteract the side effects of the original. She couldn’t stand the feeling of not being clear-headed and present in the moment.

Around this time, she also had knee surgery. Then she needed three more to correct mistakes made in the first. She was prescribed more medication. During her recovery, she commiserated with fellow veterans about all of their medications and heard that some of them were getting the same pain relief by using marijuana instead. At that point in time marijuana was illegal in just about every U.S. state, shrouded in the stigma that has surrounded weed for decades. 

Florida voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016, yet the stigma still plagues the patients who use it simply to make it through the day. Covone not only struggles with that and the judgement that comes with being a mother who uses marijuana as medicine. “I think people are scared to say anything, especially women, and especially mothers because they know that people still view marijuana as a drug and people think that you can’t function… but that isn’t true in the least bit. 

“If it was not for the medical marijuana,” Covone says, ”I wouldn’t be able to get up and do the things that I do.”

In the future, Covone wants to study to become a nutritionist, a desire based in her love for using food to keep her body as strong as possible. She says she will likely never stop helping veterans. As Covone speaks, her passion for helping others is evident. For her, volunteering is a choice but also a compulsion. She seems very aware that though she has her struggles, there are people out there who have circumstances far worse. Worse yet, they are not getting proper guidance and support. In her eyes, the least she can do is volunteer some time and knowledge to help people find the right path for them.

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GRAM Launches Improved Website

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The entire team at Grass Roots America Magazine is excited to release our new and improved website! We invite you to explore our new look and layout!

When we first launched the magazine, our focus was on the quality of the cannabis education presented in our print and digital issues. This meant that our website layout was the not our main priority in the very first stages of bringing great research about medicine to the world. Our original website was, at the time, intended to act as a gateway to the magazine, and it worked.

It worked so well, our views of the magazine went global and we are still expanding. Because of this, we knew we needed to provide more digital content to our readership, with a layout that was both visually driven and easy to navigate. In our design process, we experimented with  several layouts and features, resulting in many drafts that were then judged and critiqued by our design team and IT specialists.

After several rounds of updating the design by adding or removing certain features, the GRAM team was given the final approval from our Founder and CEO, Nancy Moss, and the new and improved Grass Roots America Magazine website was born!

Our new layout is more than just visually appealing. It draws your gaze to eye catching graphics that highlight the main topic of each article, encouraging readers to click and learn more. Then, each article presents current scientific and medical cannabis information, supported by cutting edge research and commentary from some of today’s leading experts in cannabis.

In addition to sharing great research about medicine, our new website also has a Cooking Corner, featuring infused recipes. You can also keep up to date with where our team will be in the world by checking out our calendar of Events. You can even meet our team at an event near you!

We hope you enjoy your new website and look forward to sharing great research about medicine as we grow into the future.

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