Karin Spinks Chester is an experienced cannabis activist and event producer with a strong background in community organization and a commitment to furthering cannabis law reform. Living in Hillsboro, Missouri, Karin was heavily involved with the legalization movement, having served as the Outreach Coordinator for New Approach Missouri since 2016. New Approach Missouri was the leading campaign behind the passing of Amendment 2, which legalized medical cannabis in the state just last November.
She now works as Vice President for MoCannTrade (Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association) and is the Executive Director of Greater St. Louis NORML. She is also the Founder and CEO of her own company, Midwest Canna Expos, who recently produced Missouri’s largest medical cannabis conference, MoCannBizCon+Expo. Midwest Canna Expos produces educational events, conferences, and expos both independently and in partnership with cannabis industry trade associations. In addition to all of this, Karin spends what little spare time she does have as the Founder of The Missouri Patient Project, a photographic and biographic documentation of current and potential cannabis patients in the state of Missouri. We were able to get in touch with Karin to learn more about her story and what she hopes to accomplish now that Missourians will have access to medical cannabis.
How would you describe yourself and what you’re doing?
I primarily consider myself an activist and an event producer second. Ensuring the passage of Amendment 2 was a primary goal for so long, and now that we have a legal system established in Missouri, my focus has shifted to event production. I’m going to be doing more cannabis and hemp conferences, as well as producing educational events for patients and physicians. Spreading credible knowledge about the medicinal benefits of this plant is something I’m very passionate about, and I have several plans to do that through events.
How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
I started off in cannabis as a patient and activist working on signature collection in 2016 for the medical program for Missouri. I was the Outreach Coordinator for New Approach Missouri where I helped with volunteer recruitment, training, fundraising, and event planning. That year we did not make the ballot but we continued fighting until we got it passed in 2018.
What can you tell us about your company?
My company, Midwest Canna Expos, was really born out of me being an activist. I started planning events and conferences as a way to raise funds for the Amendment 2 campaign, and found I had a knack for it. After legalization, it was a natural segue for me to continue doing so, but under my own banner. I have assembled an amazing team of people who share my passion for cannabis and education, and we plan to continue spreading knowledge and awareness through our events.
What makes you so passionate about cannabis education?
I am passionate about cannabis education because when people are presented with the facts about cannabis, how it improves the quality of life for so many people, and they can see the truth of it, they are always convinced. I truly believe educating people about the plant is the most important thing we can do as advocates and as industry professionals.
What are your future ambitions?
My hope is to grow my company to the point where we are the premier cannabis education company for conferences and events. MoCannBizCon+Expo was such a successful educational conference, it attracted over 2200 attendees in just 2 days. That’s an incredible number of people, which goes to show how many people are wanting to learn more. We already have other events in planning stages, and the prospects for the future look good. A big part of my business plan is being able to use money the company makes to further education on all levels, including education for patients and physicians.
What advice would you give other women wanting to start their own business?
I think for women breaking into an industry, it is really important to make connections with other strong women who want to lift each other up. Even when it gets hard, you have to focus on the positive. It isn’t easy, but I’m fortunate to be involved with groups and people who value what I have to offer. I think women have a much better shot in the cannabis industry than in other industries. I think people in the cannabis industry tend to be more open-minded and more freethinking than other people, and in many ways, have moved past stereotypical thinking. Of course, one of the best ways to connect with other strong women is by getting involved and attending events!
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Turmeric is a root vegetable commonly used as a spice in various Indian and other cultures’ dishes. Turmeric is in the zingiberaceae family, as is ginger. The turmeric plant is native to the southeastern region of Asia and commonly harvested in places like India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. It is responsible for curry’s signature orange color, and its vibrant pigment will give essentially any meal an orange hue.
Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin, and curcumin has been shown through research to offer anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic benefits. The scientific name for the turmeric plant is Curcuma Longa, and likely where the name curcumin comes from. When people are talking about the health benefits of turmeric, they are referencing curcumin so you may hear the two names used interchangeably. Curcumin is part of a group called curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most active and the most beneficial for health. Flavonoids are another substance found in various plants and give these plants their color. Curcumin is a flavonoid and is responsible for providing that bright orange color to turmeric. In addition to providing aesthetic value, flavonoids are also strong antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry published a study done by Sanjaya Singh and Bharat B. Aggarwal of the Cytokine Research Laboratory at the world-renowned cancer hospital, M.D. Anderson. The study found that curcumin suppressed NF-κB, a protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory responses. In other words, turmeric shuts off the body’s inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatories can be beneficial for many different ailments, including chronic pain and digestive disorders. A lot of CBD companies even put curcumin in their products because of its benefits. It is believed to be a synergistic pair with complementary therapeutic properties. The thought is that the two plant medicines are powerful on their own; as a combination, they can deliver even more anti-inflammatory and medicinal benefits.
Many people simply add turmeric to their dishes as a way to easily incorporate it into their daily routine. It is pretty mild in flavor and can be added to many dishes without changing the overall taste too drastically. Some say that turmeric isn’t strong enough on its own to receive the anti-inflammatory properties that curcumin provides, and therefore recommend a curcumin supplement. Research varies on that, so in the end it is just up to personal preference and your doctor’s approval. Curcumin supplements come most available in capsules. Pregnant women can safely use turmeric as an addition to their food, but should avoid taking high-dosage supplements. Those who are interested in supplementing with curcumin products should talk with their doctor first.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center did another study in 2007 exploring curcumin for cancer treatment. The study found that curcumin inhibits ovarian cancer growth and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). It does this by targeting and manipulating the NF-κB pathway, the same protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory response. According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The nuclear factor NF-κB pathway has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the role of NF-κB in the expression of proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”
The trend with curcumin seems to be it’s ability to control inflammatory responses in the body. It does this by multiple pathways, but a commonly researched one is the NF-κB protein complex. Because this pathway is able to be manipulated by curcumin to encourage anti-inflammatory expressions, its potential for successfully treating various ailments is there.
Psilocybin + Magic Mushrooms
When many think of plant medicine, specifically those plants with psychoactive effects, they think of “magic mushrooms,” or fungi containing psilocybin and psilocin that can cause hallucinations depending on the dosage consumed. In many states, there are active efforts to decriminalize these otherwise scheduled substances, lowering penalties for their use and possession. But what value do psilocybin-containing mushrooms offer? New research suggests a range of therapeutic and psychological value ranging from the treatment of substance abuse to anxiety and depression management.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic Mushroom use dates back to 10,000 BCE and references continue throughout the era. Their modern popularity began when the term “magic mushroom” was coined by two etnomycologists who learned of a Harvard study on local doctors in Mexico using these substances, noting the substance’s ability to affect the nervous system. These findings were eventually published in Life magazine in 1957, and the term became the universal reference for psychoactive fungi and truffles, specifically those containing high concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin.
Psilocybin & Psilocin: The “Magic” in Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin and psilocin are part of a family of psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Psilocin is pharmacologically active, and psilocybin is converted into psilocin when consumed or activated. Similar in structure to serotonin, there are more than 50 species of mushrooms and a variety of truffles that produce both the precursor, psilocybin, and the psychoactive compound, psilocin. Unlike LSD, magic mushrooms do not affect dopamine receptors, solely targeting serotonin sites.
How are Magic Mushrooms used?
Magic mushrooms are often used for recreational, therapeutic and medicinal reasons. “Effects range from mild feelings of relaxation, giddiness, euphoria, visual enhancement (seeing colors brighter), visual disturbances (moving surfaces, waves), to delusions, altered perception of real events, images and faces, or real hallucinations.” Recreationally, this is often known as “tripping.” As an alternative health option, these fungi are being used for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma, as well as psychological disorders such as substance abuse disorders, and science is beginning to back the potential for these applications.
Research on Mushrooms
Evaluations of currently available scientific studies suggest a growing number of therapeutic benefits and treatment options. “In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as psilocybin…looking at psilocybin and other hallucinogens to treat a number of otherwise intractable psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency.”
Magic mushrooms have been respected as a “safe & natural healing sacrament for millennia throughout Mexico, Central America and the world,” and are known to be beneficial for depression, recidivism (the tendency to repeat past transgressions), and encourages openness, creativity, as well as personal and spiritual growth. UCLA and NYC have done studies on the applications of magic mushrooms in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety and other studies have backed up the use of psilocybin and psilocin in the treatment of substance use disorders, depression (especially in cases of terminal conditions like cancer as well as treatment-resistant depression), and reducing depression and anxiety overall.
Best way for people to consume?
When it comes to the consumption of mushrooms, advice on dosage is about as specific as it was with cannabis under prohibition. Consumers must purchase on the black market and are subject to whatever may be available.
“Recreational doses range from 1–5 grams of dry mushrooms depending on the species and individual strength of the specimens… After ingestion, the psilocybin is enzymatically converted to psilocin. Absorbed from the gastro-intestinal tract, hallucinogenic effects usually occur within 30 minutes of ingestion with a duration of effect of 4–6 hours.”
My recommendation as someone who has used magic mushrooms both for recreational and therapeutic purposes, is to grind the mushrooms into a fine powder and either encapsulate them in small increments and/or combine with lemon juice. Capsules will allow you to titrate your dosage as needed with a recognizable increment, while lemon juice will expedite onset time.
The Legality of Magic Mushrooms
In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I controlled substance, with no accepted medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. In contrast, the Drug Policy Alliance states that “Physically, psilocybin mushrooms are considered to be one of the least toxic drugs known.” With that being said, local efforts such as Decriminalize Nature – Oakland and Decriminalize Denver have pushed for and successfully passed initiatives and legislation to reduce penalties and make enforcement a low priority, as was done in the early days of cannabis activism. This has spurred multiple local and international efforts to “Decriminalize Nature,” efforts that we learn more about in this month’s feature.
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