As a flower child of the late 60s, I enjoyed sharing a joint with friends – and yes, unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale. After all, as President Obama has said, that was sort of the point. And, like many women of my generation, I found marijuana the only relief from monthly malaise. If it was good enough for Queen Victoria, it was good enough for me.
(image courtesy of Amsterdamgenetics.com)
I indulged over the ensuing years only occasionally, but became more interested in medical marijuana use when a very close friend suffering from advanced cancer found it a tremendous help both during chemotherapy and later to relieve the suffering of her final months. I have now personally experienced the benefits in relieving the inflammation and chronic pain of degenerative arthritis in my shoulders and neck. A combination of unlucky family genes and my literally rough-neck lifestyle has visited me with periods of full to partial disability, and I resort to prescription opioid pain medication only as a desperate last resort. (These prescription drugs turn me into a nauseated zombie, so no danger here of opioid addiction.)
For those not residing in one of the U.S. states where it’s legal (I live in Washington), a quick summary:
Since the 1970s, over half of U.S. states have either approved cannabis for medical use, decriminalized it for recreational use, or completely legalized it and approved it for retail sale. (Wikipedia) In 1998, Washington State legalized medical use of marijuana for several conditions if documented by a physician, and in November 2012, Washington voters passed Initiative 502 to legalize cannabis for recreational use. We are now in the midst of a reorganization of the market to combine distribution of medical and recreational marijuana purchase in licensed stores, and to further regulate the growing conditions. The Federal Government still considers it illegal, but has decided not to pursue the issue in states where it’s been legalized.
In an odd recent twist, given that polls show a majority in the country favor legalization, the DEA announced in August 2016 that it would keep cannabis listed as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, as the most dangerous category without any medical benefits. The DEA classification has prevented widespread study of its potential medical benefits, but existing studies do demonstrate proven reduction of pain, nausea, and other symptoms. The upside of the recent DEA decision is that more universities and other institutes can now apply to grow and study marijuana to provide more data about benefits and possible negative side effects. The prestigious medical journal Lancet announced that for non-medical recreational use, “…the public health burden of cannabis use is probably modest compared with that of alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs.”
So, on to my own explorations:
It’s a brave new world of marijuana here in Washington State. Back in the hippie days, we defied “the man” by sharing whatever form of the herbal bud a friend might offer. Now, instead of visiting a liquor store or a pharmacy for recreational or medical supplies, a prospective customer (at least 21 years of age) enters a surprisingly upscale shop to be confronted by a bewildering variety of strains. They come in attractive packaging with a listing of percentages of various components that might be mostly Sativa (daytime or more active strain) or Indica (night-time or more relaxing strain) or hybrid of the two, with various percentages of TCH (the active “mind-altering” ingredient) or CBD (the anti-inflammatory and pain relieving component), among other elements.
Since I was looking for pain relief and relaxation to help me sleep at night, I decided my best bet would be high-CBD and low-THC strains. (A friend who likes his end-of-the-week “mind trip” as a reset after work looks for the highest THC concentration. He cites studies showing that many users of recreational marijuana shift away from alcohol consumption and experience fewer downsides – better than an alcohol hangover and possible liver damage.)
In recent months, despite twice-a-week physical therapy and other measures for spinal degeneration and nerve pain, I found keyboard/writing time becoming more and more painful and limited, and even my short hiking escapes for healing time in nature were getting cut short by neck pain. I really resist taking drugs, but finally decided to try Nature’s herb in a more organized fashion than random sampling from friends.
I visited a friend going through chemotherapy, who has a license to grow his own, and he showed me his lovely, fragrant plants.
The growing process is slow, and involves more fuss than I wanted to deal with, so I decided to make my first purchase.
First stop: 20/20 Solutions here in Bellingham. (photos used with permission)
Friendly staff member Danny very helpfully explained the various combinations and helped me select a low-THC, high-CBD combination to try for pain relief without much in the way of “spacey” effects. I’ve found that it does give me relief in the evening, with no noticeable downsides.
The store offers a variety of forms to ingest cannabis, from bongs for smoking to vaporizers to marijuana-infused chocolate or coffee.
Some of the fancy packaging tickles me, as well as the names of strains like Sour Tsunami, Rude Boi, Train Wreck, Sour Diesel, Girl Scout Cookies, Gorilla Glue, and Grape Ape, many of them originating in street names from pre-legalization times.
(I swear it was the camera, not me, being blurry.)
Out of curiosity, I visited another of Bellingham’s pot shops, Trove Cannabis, this one with a more polished commercial image. Again, the staff members were friendly and helpful, and invited me to take photos of the bewildering array of products and paraphernalia and slick magazines devoted to the latest trends.
This aging flower child found her mind blown (without a single toke) by all the changes in this new industry in just a few years. Back in the day, we hippies wouldn’t have believed this could be just “business as usual.” Heading out the shop door, I felt like my eyes were spinning in my head with the trove of choices.
Peace and love!
Sara’s newest from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.