High times: Legal cannabis is on the horizon
How medical marijuana has influenced legal use
By Lexi Wright, Staff Writer
The federal deadline for cannabis legalization is drawing nearer. But how has medical marijuana influenced those who use it and are concerns about medical marijuana being addressed in Calgary?
If you’re not familiar with medical marijuana, a brief history of the plant will take you on a journey through all of its different components.
In addition to THC — the most well-known chemical component in marijuana and what gives you that “high” feeling — there are several other cannabinoids. Many of these chemicals were more recently discovered, and some are still being tested to find the best medical uses for them.
Kait Shane, Director Of Community Outreach at Natural Health Services, says that the curiosity surrounding medical marijuana has been around for years.
“Before the 1960’s, a lot of plants had just as much CBD [cannabinoid] as THC in them but once the recreational market hit, nobody could tell what CBD was really doing for them. When medicinal entered the scene again, mainly through parent advocacy groups around seizures, they started doing a bit more research on CBD and discovered how important it was for the medicinal component,” says Shane.
CBD, the cannabidiol which is naturally found in hemp plants, is non-psychoactive and has been known for its success in helping with anxiety.
Craig Pearce, one of the many doctors at Natural Health Services, started studying medical marijuana after having done his own research.
“I started to see some of the patient results, anecdotal of course, and coming from research background it was a bit difficult. We live in a day and age of evidence based medicine so I really wanted to see research but I was experiencing patient results which were really truly inspiring”.
One of his most memorable success stories was a pediatric epilepsy case. The patient had exhausted all conventional therapies and after turning to medical marijuana, saw huge success.
“That was probably the most remarkable initial patient result, watching this patient go from 30 to 50 seizures a day to less than half a dozen with CBD oil,” says Pearce.
“It really just takes one or two happy patients per day to make you feel like, okay, maybe there isn’t a whole lot of evidence based medicine yet but here are some anecdotal responses that are really, really promising and changing people’s lives.”
And the popularity of medical marijuana is only growing stronger.
Eric May is one of many individuals in Calgary who uses medical marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes.
“A couple summers ago I was getting really dizzy and had no idea why. I went to a few doctors and one doctor suggested that it might be anxiety. With an [anxiety] pill, you feel different, you don’t feel like yourself. With weed, I was actually able to lower my dosage of the anxiety pill,” says May.
After consulting with friends who had also been using medical marijuana, May decided that it would be a safer and more effective option.
“You know, the whole fentanyl crisis is a big deal. Medical marijuana is way better than street stuff in terms of potency and just cleanness. The whole idea of it being clean and from somewhere I can trust really helped with my decision,” says May.
“A couple summers ago I was getting really dizzy and had no idea why. I went to a few doctors and one doctor suggested that it might be anxiety. With an [anxiety] pill, you feel different, you don’t feel like yourself. With weed, I was actually able to lower my dosage of the anxiety pill.” – Eric May.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to smoke medical marijuana. In fact, smoking it is not recommended by health practitioners.
For May, CBD oils have proven to be the most effective.
“If you don’t mind the taste, you just drop it under your tongue and it starts doing it’s thing. The CBD drops are the ones that really curbed my anxiety.”
Future studies are planned to evaluate the effectiveness of CBD for treating psychotic disorders, arthritis, epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease.
Whether you’re an advocate for legalization or not, legislation has been set for July 1, 2018. The provincial government announced that the minimum age of consumption will be 18 and cannabis is to be sold at privately operated stores, while online sales will be managed by a Government of Alberta website.
In the meantime, the City of Calgary is looking for your thoughts on legalized cannabis. You can provide feedback on business regulations, retail sales, use, consumption and growing it at home. The website is open until Dec. 10.