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Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran

An American Medical Refugee Family

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Amy has a family of three sons, Austin, Nathaniel, and Freeman, and her husband, Jason. Five years ago, her family moved from their home in Oklahoma to Colorado in an attempt to save her son’s life. “Austin has been on cannabis medicine for 5 years now. In 2012, the doctors gave him two years to live because of the damage the pharmaceuticals had done. He is still alive almost 8 years later, no longer has kidney or liver damage and lives almost seizure free because of his daily medical cannabis regimen.” Even though Austin has lived longer than they were told and has gained some quality of life, the family has encountered many challenges along their journey.

“We were giving up everything on the hope and prayer that a plant would save our son. It cost us friends; we had threats from strangers, online bullying…we couldn’t believe it. All we were trying to do was save our son. We were doing what we thought any parent would do: whatever it takes to save our child. We had a lot of doubters–us included. We had no idea if it would work. We didn’t believe wholeheartedly in the plant then, like we do now. Now, we KNOW. Now, we tell people, ‘cannabis saved our son’s life’ because it has. Not only does it prevent seizures, it stops them when he does have a breakthrough seizure. Cannabis saved our son’s life after a decade of  varying pharmaceuticals couldn’t.”

My thoughts on cannabis now are simple: end prohibition; let the cannabis plant save lives and positively impact our world.

Amy has consumed cannabis throughout her life. However, her husband does not consume cannabis and is a former fireman. She says, “We have a unique household dynamic. It wasn’t until my research on cannabis and its potential use for seizures that I considered it ‘medicine.’ My thoughts prior to that were simple. It’s a plant and man’s law should never outlaw God’s creation. I also thought it was a great injustice to our veterans to force them to choose pills over a plant after serving our country. When I started researching cannabis as a medicine, I learned very quickly that it had medicinal value and certainly should be a legal, accessible option for anyone who needs it. So I have fought for the end of cannabis prohibition every day since.”

“Austin is doing amazing. He will never escape his disease, Dravet Syndrome, the catastrophic form of epilepsy. Before cannabis, Austin was on numerous pharmaceuticals that never stopped his seizures, had hideous side effects, and did damage to his organs.” The family was able to wean him off pharmaceuticals. “It took us 10 months, and some of the withdrawals were dangerous, but THC drops helped him make it through. We also utilize THC solely when stopping his seizures, either through drops, suppositories, or intranasal spray.”

“His success has come from utilizing the whole plant (a higher THC strain), THCa, THC, and CBN for his dystonia. Doctors initially were skeptical. We were in Children’s Hospital with Austin on life support after a cold sent him into seizures and the local hospital administered Ativan and refused to let me give him his cannabis. By the time we were transported to Children’s, Austin had a collapsed lung, the other full of fluid, unresponsive with his vitals crashing, and the doctors were preparing us for the worst.

I can remember being in the room, hearing doctors talking about which pharmaceutical to give him next to try and stop the seizures, and I screamed, ‘You’re going to kill my son – PLEASE STOP – PLEASE STOP – he was recently weaned off pharmaceuticals after a decade of daily use, his heart can’t take anymore, his body can’t take anymore – if you do this, my son will die.’ I was literally begging for my son’s life. Thank God the doctors listened (my husband and I are both licensed medical professionals), and they intubated him, giving him more time to get the Ativan out of his system. We worked hand-in-hand with the hospital leaders and board to get official policy for administration of cannabis medicine accepted. I was able to administer Austin’s cannabis medicine to him, in front of doctors, neurologists, nurses, and they were able to see–before their own eyes–when I would administer his cannabis, that it would stop his seizures. They saw firsthand that after 2 days with his cannabis medicine, Austin was able to be removed from the machines and breathe on his own, after pharmaceuticals had not helped him but caused him harm. We didn’t just change hospital policy, we changed hearts and minds and have had the respect and support from them ever since. Before cannabis, Austin was on varying pharmaceuticals, and still would have hundreds of seizures every day, in addition to the hideous pharmaceutical side effects. Now that Austin is a cannabis patient, he is no longer on pharmaceuticals that were shutting down his organs, his kidneys and liver have completely recovered, and we live with days, weeks, sometimes months with NO seizures at all.”

Now the entire family utilizes hemp products for wellness. She says both her other sons previously had seizures but have not had any at all since starting cannabis. She also uses her own organically grown cannabis medicine and gifts legal amounts to veterans and local cancer patients in need. “I am a cancer survivor (cervical), had seizures, and also utilize cannabis for PTSD and pain. Additionally, we make whole plant suppositories from high-THC cannabis, and I use hemp and CBD to make my own lotions and salves for our family and AMR (American Medical Refugees) patients. Our dogs also enjoy homemade hemp treats.”

Amy was part of a public service ad that was rejected air time during the 2019 Super Bowl. She says, “At first, it was disappointing, but when the ad went uber viral across the globe in minutes, we knew that our message and our family’s story was making an impact far greater than we had ever dreamed. People all over the world, billions of people, were learning that cannabis IS a medicine and that it saved our son’s life.” To help share education and awareness, Amy started a social media campaign to share the message about patent number 6630507 that the U.S. government holds on cannabinoids. “There are numerous patents that prove cannabis is medicinal and should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, but this patent, which is held by several different arms of the U.S. government, also proves that cannabis is nontoxic and nonlethal in its natural form.”

His success has come from utilizing the whole plant (a higher THC strain), THCa, THC, and CBN for his dystonia. 

Amy and her husband founded the non-profit American Medical Refugees. “AMR hosts monthly events that are free to cannabis patients and their families who have relocated from another state or country to legally access medicine.” Amy’s experience as a medical refugee has driven her mission to help others. “People don’t realize that AMR families are moving out of desperation, many have been told by doctors there is nothing more that can be done (our family was one of those). Many of these patients, these children, are terminal, are fighting–literally–to stay alive another day.”

Amy continues to share her story and education. She founded Millennium Grown, which primarily hosted events for AMR, veterans, and the VIP’s of the cannabis industry, but also produced the world premiere showing of the documentary “The Legend of 420” in Denver. She is now producing a multi-state rollout of expos, starting with the Oklahoma Cannabis Expo, March 22-24, 2020 in Oklahoma City. Amy says she is collaborating with the hemp and cannabis industries’ finest to bring an interactive, invaluable resource for patients, entrepreneurs, and investors alike. “To bring the OCE to our home state is truly one of the greatest honors of my life.” 

Amy says she and her husband have both changed their minds. “He didn’t think marijuana should be legal at all, now he sees it as a medicine and a nonlethal recreational option. As a fireman, he saw first hand the destruction of the opioid epidemic and has done a complete 180 on where he stands about the cannabis plant. In his mind–and in fact–it is a safer option than most if not all the prescribed drugs, nicotine, and alcohol. My thoughts on cannabis now are simple: end prohibition; let the cannabis plant save lives and positively impact our world. In addition to its use as medicine and food, there are so many uses for it industrially, so many potentials as it requires less water to grow, is stronger, and more sustainable than cotton. I believe in my heart that cannabis, hemp, marijuana, weed, ganja, pot–whatever you want to call it–I believe that the potential in this plant could save lives, help our planet, and bring healthier, happier moments to people across the globe. I believe it in my soul, I live it daily.”

www.americanmedicalrefugees.com
www.oklahomacannabisexpo.com

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Salute to Cannabis Nurses

Featuring Taylor Hayes

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Taylor Hayes is a psychiatric registered nurse with a passion for psychedelic plant medicines that she has used to found the new International Association of Psychedelic Nurses (IAPN).Taylor’s journey to plant medicine use began through her own exposure and the benefits she received. One trip changed the trajectory of her life.

As a college student at Auburn University, Taylor had no idea what she wanted to do in addition to struggling with depression and PTSD for almost a decade. “I had never gotten help before. So I went to counseling services. I thought I would try this out and see what mental healthcare is like. And I received some help there. I was inspired by some of the people who helped me through that time period. It inspired me to want to help people as I recovered from my own depression and PTSD, I wanted to be there to help other people through their struggles, so I chose nursing school and knew I wanted to go into psychiatry since I started. I fell in love with psychiatry and all the psych patients that I have worked with mostly inpatient kids, adults, adolescents, teenagers.”

Taylor’s first exposure to a psychedelic plant was in college, and she didn’t take it with the anticipation that it would have any huge effect. “It was a mushroom, I had a psychedelic experience and it completely changed my life. I went to my psychiatrist and I told him that I didn’t feel like I needed my medications anymore; I didn’t feel depressed; I had made significant lifestyle changes following this one experience: started exercising and eating better and just caring about my life.” With the approval of her psychiatrist, Taylor was able to come off of her medication.

Throughout her journey with plant medicines, Taylor has participated in research studies and expanded her own knowledge through study in South America. “I signed up to be a participant in a psilocybin research study down in Jamaica. […] I kept following plant medicines, it became very important to me. I took a semester off school to go stay at an ayahuasca research center in Peru. I studied in San Pedro with the indigenous healers of Peru. I just had so many life-changing experiences throughout the course of that. It made me want to further study the plants and their applications within Western psychiatry: treating addiction, mental health, depression, PTSD, trauma. I actually learned throughout this journey that a significant portion of western medications originated in the Amazon Rainforest Basin, which means there’s probably countless medicines left to derive from the plants there.” 

As we continue to profile cannabis nurses, GRAM recognizes the power that nurses have. Taylor says, “Nurses have taken the lead as far as self-care in the way of medical cannabis. They’ve started writing standards of care. I think that is because the nursing practice is more pinpointed. Nurses are powerful; they’re the hands of healthcare and the heart of healthcare and they’re a significant portion of the whole body of healthcare. So if nurses get behind plant medicines and there’s no telling what kind of changes could happen.”

In February 2020, Taylor launched IAPN, which currently has about 200 members. They are “Nurses and nursing students who are interested in learning more about psychedelics and the plant medicines and how to fit this into healthcare appropriately and insightfully determining best practices and standards.” The goal is, “Increasing our database of information, increasing our membership, increasing awareness, compiling the research so that we can start putting the research into practice and into best practices for the field.” 

Taylor definitely thinks plant medicines should be legal, accessible, and regulated. “I think people should be able to possess whatever plant. As far as administering or hosting ceremonies, I definitely do think there should be some regulation around that, because it can be unsafe with people who don’t know what they’re doing or aren’t medically trained. If we promote a culture of education and safety around proper use of these plants and medicinal use of these plants, I don’t see why anybody shouldn’t be able to use them.”

In order to allow people to have safe access to psychedelic plant medicines, Taylor has also launched Hope Network Health. In coordination with licensed medical professionals, they work to provide psychedelic plant medicine care in a controlled, legal environment. They are scheduled to have their inaugural psilocybin group healing session in January 2021.

Taylor has a lot of hope for the future of plant medicine. “I am really looking forward to the future of what can be done in this space if we work consciously and with a good intention. There’s lots of potential for a new wave of healing or medicine.”

Psychedelic medicine has the potential to revamp and expand the mental health care system in the U.S. Taylor tells us, “We have a very good system in the U.S. as far as some parts of mental healthcare, but I think that our system can be expanded and improved upon. I’m advocating for an expansion, for adding new substances to medical practice, so that people can have options especially people who have tried the traditional therapy and it’s not working, now perhaps they can have access to a breakthrough therapy psilocybin or MDMA. There’s such high demand for healthcare workers because there’s so many sick people. If we can get better medicines perhaps we can improve our healthcare system, see fewer patients, less personnel on staff, less stress in everyway on the system itself, less stress on society in general, if we could get mental healthcare under control, our opiate and alcohol addictions under control, you might see less DUIs, less domestic violence, all these things are related to each other so if we have better medicine options, I think we would have a much happier and more productive country altogether. I want to see our country well.”

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Election 2020 Plant Medicine Results

Here at GRAM, we look forward to the changes coming in 2021!

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2020 was a major year for plant medicine. Voters in red and blue states voted for changes in state law about cannabis for recreational and medical use. In every state that cannabis was on the ballot in November, it passed!

Cannabis Legalized for Adult Recreational Use

Arizona Proposition 207

Montana Initiative 190

South Dakota Amendment A

New Jersey Question 1

Cannabis Legalized for Medical Use

Mississippi Initiative 65

South Dakota Measure 26

Other Plant Medicine Election Results

Oregon Legalized Psilocybin- Measure 109

Washington D.C. Initiative 81

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Year of the Nurse

Featuring Eloise Theisen

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Eloise Theisen is the president of the American Cannabis Nurses’ Association (ACNA). She has been a nurse for 20 years and a cannabis nurse for six years. With the focus on healthcare workers during the pandemic of COVID-19, GRAM felt talking to a cannabis nurse about COVID-19 issues would benefit our readers.

The number one challenge across the country is rapid change and uncertainty. This uncertainty is no different for the cannabis industry. “One of the challenges we’re seeing in the industry right now are these rapid changes that are coming out around deeming cannabis as an essential business in some states and not others; requiring adult-use states to now only supply cannabis to medical patients again. I think we’re seeing the industry–as a whole–is in jeopardy in terms of being able to sustain and weather this storm because of the fact we don’t qualify for any of the business stimulus relief at the federal level because we’re federally illegal still. So we have all these challenges as an industry that I am concerned about how, eventually, the ripple effect comes to patients. If manufacturers can’t weather this storm, if dispensaries and growers can’t weather this storm, who’s going to be there for patients when we start to come out of this?” Eloise said. 

A challenge for healthcare providers is providing the opportunity for cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Eloise said, “The way that the laws are set up, you have to go in and physically get your prescription refilled. And with all the practices trying to limit patients coming in, some of these chronic pain patients on opioid prescriptions are having a hard time getting their prescriptions refilled. So it’s a good time to explore cannabis as a medicine, as either an alternative to their pain medication or something they can use in conjunction, which may allow them to spare some of the dosages.”

Eloise highlighted the extreme variations happening across the healthcare industry that she sees through ACNA. “What we’re seeing right now is there are hotspots in need of healthcare professionals, but outside of that, we’re seeing layoffs, furloughs, and places closing down because the ERs aren’t at capacity or the hospitals aren’t at capacity. So there’s a real interesting extreme happening in healthcare where we’re either in crisis mode like in New York City, Michigan, Chicago, or you’re getting laid off.” One of the things ACNA is working on is a position statement on post-traumatic stress. Eloise anticipates a “huge increase in that diagnosis from the frontlines, first responders. So we want to get out there and get the states to list PTSD as a qualifying condition because not all states do.”

Eloise addressed the various concerns floating around about using cannabis in these times. “I think a lot of people are nervous about inhaling cannabis right now because there’s been some mixed reports, some clickbait, fear-mongering articles coming out. A lot of those articles, they’re using information based on tobacco studies and not cannabis studies.”

“We do have legitimate research to show that cannabis is effective for things like anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia, and those are three major conditions or symptoms that people are struggling with right now,” she said. “I would say if you’re new to cannabis, inhalation is not the route you should choose to start until COVID settles in. If you’re a long-term cannabis user and you’re having any respiratory distress or any type of respiratory symptoms like a cough or shortness of breath, you should stop, contact your healthcare provider. Know that there are other options out there.”

It is important to note that cannabis is not a treatment for COVID-19. The ACNA came out with a statement1 addressing cannabis or CBD products being marketed as a cure or treatment for COVID-19. Eloise said, “I think it’s essential for patients to know that the FDA says there’s no coronavirus treatment or cure, and what we know about cannabis and immunity is mixed. So if you’re seeing people making claims about how cannabis or CBD can improve your immune system to fight COVID, you should be suspicious of those claims, and they haven’t been founded in science.”

If you are trying to save money on cannabis or hemp-based CBD products, you are probably sacrificing quality and putting yourself at risk. Eloise said, “Right now, because people have limited income, they may be turning to the grey market to try to save some money, and there’s concern about what’s in those products in terms of mold and pesticides.”

One frustrating aspect of the current environment is that in the race to find a treatment and develop a vaccine for coronavirus, doctors and scientists are basing decisions on extremely small subject groups. “The gold standard of the double-blind, randomized placebo trials, that the healthcare community requires or requests for any type of treatment has been getting a lot of pushback with cannabis, and here we are seeing very small sample sizes with coronavirus and different treatments. And you understand, people are desperate. They’re theorizing how COVID is behaving in the body and what mechanism of action and trying to find the right medication for it. But we see mixed results. Even The New England Journal of Medicine published and basically said there’s not enough evidence to support that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are effective treatments for COVID right now.2 Yet we have our current leadership out there promoting this treatment [which has] devastating side effects. It can be toxic to the heart, among other things. It’s this double standard that we’re experiencing right now. I would love to see some leniency or some opportunities open up for cannabis,” Eloise said. “You’re reading about shortages in the hospitals for the different things we need to treat patients, not just with personal protective equipment, but now medication. It’s like if there was ever a time for cannabis, now is it.”

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