When it comes to choosing between a high-THC or a high-CBD cannabis product, it really comes down to your personal needs and preferences.
For some, CBD is the preferred cannabinoid; it doesn’t get you high, and it offers certain medicinal benefits like relief of anxiety and inflammation. Others prefer THC, which comes with its own unique therapeutic and mood-boosting properties. For some of us, the reason we choose THC products is simple: they get you high.
Even if your main goal with cannabis is to get high, that doesn’t mean CBD has no place in your routine. There are ways for you to toss it into your body and supplement–even enhance–your high. Ya know, like tossing dried cranberries on a salad that would’ve already been good regardless.
Using CBD to Tame or Enhance THC
THC can leave some people feeling anxiety, short-term memory impairment, or simply too high. While CBD can’t cancel out the effects of THC, it can help mitigate them and leave you feeling a little more balanced.
Example: You’ve gotten too high on Orange Cookies, and now you need something to even it out, else you’ll be in Stuck Mode for hours. That’s a great time to use a CBD tincture, take a CBD edible, or hit a lil’ CBD vape pen and puff-puff yourself back down to earth a bit.
But just know that CBD’s ability to round out an intense high is all about dosage; low doses of CBD may enhance your high while larger doses have been shown to curb THC’s intensity. Speaking of CBD vape pens…
CBD Vape Pens Are Your Friend
Though CBD on its own won’t get you high, a CBD-dominant vape cartridge once showed me that CBD can deliver a super relaxed feeling that almost feels like a high.
For this reason, THC enthusiasts would be doing themselves no disservice by purchasing a CBD vape pen (or even some CBD dabs) the next time they’re hitting the canna-store. It’s a great tool for keeping you afloat in between THC sessions.
Personally, I vape my CBD cartridge (at a very high dosage) in between THC joints to keep me high and happy until it was time to roll up my next blunt. Think of it like snacking on Pringles until you can finally eat a whole pizza.
Smoke CBD-Dominant Cannabis Flower
CBD-dominant cannabis strains contain a spectrum of compounds, even if they only occur in trace amounts. In other words, they not only contain CBD, but also lower levels of other cannabinoids and terpenes.
So if you smoke or vaporize a CBD-dominant flower, you’re still likely to feel a little high, even if it’s not at the level that you’d normally get from the majority of strains.
These types of strains, with their mild highs, are great for group sessions where you want to keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, but don’t want to get burnt out. Strains like Harlequin, ACDC, and Pennywise are all CBD-dominant, but still possess a touch of THC for a lightly euphoric experience.
Combine a Joint With CBD Bath Bombs
Bath bombs are all the rage, and so is CBD. So it’s not hard to believe that CBD bath bombs are becoming particularly popular these days.
Sitting in a tub full of 100mg of CBD as you puff on a king-size Elements paper full of Grape Ape might just lead you to the most relaxed high of all time. This is perhaps the most perfect example of how a THC lover can infuse CBD into their life and enhance their cannabis experience.
Shockingly, researchers discovered that the mice given higher doses of CBD showed signs of liver damage within 24 hours. To that end, 75 percent of these animals in the sub-acute phase had either died or were on the verge of death within a few days.
But this panic and misinformation is nothing new–back in 1974, a study conducted at Tulane University supposedly showed that “the active ingredient in marijuana [THC] impairs the brain circuitry,” leading the press to dutifully run articles claiming that pot causes brain damage without a trace of skepticism.
Shackled in air-tight gas masks, Heath’s monkeys were [regularly] forced to inhale the equivalent of 63 high-potency marijuana cigarettes in five minutes. Lo and behold, the primates suffered brain damage from suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning, but Heath attributed the results to marijuana toxicity.
Lucky for us–if not Forbes readers–Project CBD, a non-profit dedicated to boosting science-based understanding of cannabidiol (CBD), have just released a detailed rebuttal to the Forbes article.
Regardless of your feelings on the CBD study, it is hard to argue with dead mice–even if you are an all-knowing marijuana expert.
Mike Adams, author of the Forbes, wrote another article in which he claims there’s no such thing as an expert in cannabis because not enough is known about the plant and its effects on human beings. That’s a highly questionable claim, and I suppose it explains why he didn’t quote anyone in his article who might have poured cold water on the study’s more alarming claims.
For example, Project CBD.
In their rebuttal of the Forbes article, Project CBD says:
The breathless reporting in Forbes focuses on a single, flawed, preclinical study and exaggerates it to the point of falsehood… A close examination of the Molecules study reveals a Pandora’s box of strange statements, problematic publishing, and unreasonable experimental design. On the first page, the abstract makes a claim that is fundamentally impossible, stating that, with chronic administration of CBD, ‘75% of mice gavaged with 615 mg/kg developed a moribund condition.’ But there were only 6 animals that received this dose! One doesn’t need an advanced degree in science or math to recognize that something is amiss. Seventy-five percent of six equals 4.5.
Dead mice aside (or rather, dead half-mice), the biggest problem with the study, according to Project CBD, is that just like in the 1974 rhesus monkey study, the dosage administered was astronomically high.
Scientists force-fed mice a single dose of CBD, ranging from the supposedly ‘low’ dosage of 246 mg/kg up to a mega-dose of 2460 mg/kg CBD… The maximum human dosage recommended for the CBD-isolate Epidiolex is 20 mg/kg, which is over 100x less than what the Little Rock researchers force fed their experimental mice.
The researchers explain away this mega-dosing by pointing to something called allometric scaling, which is basically a set of guidelines for estimating an equally potent dose of a substance for humans and other animals based on body weight and body-mass index.
But Project CBD argues that allometric scaling is a rule of thumb at best, and cannabinoids in particular are a very poor fit for the model: “The ridiculously high doses in this study will saturate the body’s metabolic machinery, preventing relevant dose-extrapolations.”
False Claims in a Sketchy Journal
In their critique of the study, Project CBD flatly charged the University of Arkansas researchers with producing “A hit piece against CBD, not legitimate scientific work.”
Specifically, the Project CBD article cites instances of cherry-picking previous research on CBD to downplay benefits and hype harms, which obscures how unreliable past studies on mice have been in predicting how humans will react to cannabinoids, and which also presents false or deliberately misleading information.
Project CBD points to the study’s claim that “numerous reports have demonstrated neurological, cardiovascular and reproductive toxicities subsequent to CBD use”–the researchers cited nine sources to back that claim, but the only one to actually involve humans did not show toxicity.
In fact, when contacted by Project CBD, Saoirse O’Sullivan, that study’s lead author, said, “Our research showing that CBD causes a small reduction in resting and stress-induced blood pressure does not support the authors’ claim that we demonstrated cardiovascular toxicity of CBD. In fact, most of our work is about the potential protective effects of CBD in the cardiovascular system.”
Project CBD also called into question the credibility of Molecules, the journal that published the CBD liver study.
MDPI, which publishes the journal Molecules, has been called a predatory publisher. MDPI has been criticized for publishing unsound articles… Even if such allegations are true, it doesn’t mean that good work can’t end up in one of MDPI’s 213 journals. But it underscores the importance of checking scientific work, rather than diligently repeating and amplifying whatever claims are presented.
And that really gets to the heart of the issue.
Because it’s 2019, and we still live in a world where one small study, on mice, with highly questionable methodology, published in a marginal journal, with major flaws, can lead to articles like the one in Forbes.
Which get clicks for sounding the alarm–without a legitimate reason to do so–while simultaneously drowning out more reasoned discussions of CBD’s potential dangers, and how they can best be mitigated.
A Final Thought Experiment
One thought experiment occurred to me while researching this article.
I came across this Leafly article describing a day of testimony this past May before the FDA. In particular, I was struck by the words of Alice Mead, on hand to represent the interests of GW Pharmaceuticals, which specializes in developing pharmaceutical drugs extracted from cannabis plants–including Epidiolex, the world’s first FDA-approved CBD drug.
Normally, when Big Pharma talks to the FDA about their products, they make every effort to present the rosiest picture possible. But Mead took pains to mention that CBD is “potentially toxic to the liver” and “has powerful drug-drug interactions.”
But the real tell was when she argued for a “strong regulatory framework.”
Because what that really means is GW Pharmaceuticals wants a regulatory framework for CBD so strong that only they can surmount it. Leafly has been reporting on the company’s attempts to win temporary monopolies for its products in a number of US states since 2017, and there’s certainly no reason to believe GW wouldn’t prefer a blanket monopoly on the entire country.
And so here’s the thought experiment:
You’re GW Pharmaceuticals, and you’ve invested heavily in both time and money to create a patented CBD drug. Now you’re about to go to market, and want to make a huge return on that investment without having to compete with CBD hamburgers and truck stop snake oil.
So what’s the biggest threat to your bottom line–that people think CBD is too dangerous, or that people think CBD is too safe?
Dabbing is an effective way to consume cannabis and also a great ritual. Similar to cooking a great meal or mixing a refreshing cocktail, the process of preparing and executing the perfect dab can be meditative and provide a moment to decompress. Like a baseball player stepping up to the plate, as dabbing becomes more familiar, you’ll fall into a routine with your own methods and motions.
Once you know how to dab, there are a number of different techniques you can use to dial in the experience and find the method that work best for you to can achieve the right dab at the right temperature.
To take your dabbing experience to the next level, here are some pro tips and techniques, and explanations as to why you should include them in your dabbing routine.
Always Use a Carb Cap
(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)
Tip: After you apply your dab to the banger or nail, apply your carb cap over the top to achieve a flavorful, low temp dab with thick vapor quality.
A carb cap is an essential dabbing accessory that will help you dab at lower temperatures and vaporize your hash and concentrates more effectively. There are a number of different styles and types of carb caps available, but they all serve the same general purpose–to trap heat and emphasize true vaporization while agitating the oil to spread it across the hot dabbing surface.
Protect Your Banger With an Insert
Tip: Use a quartz insert to keep your banger clean, extend its life, and to never take a dab that’s too hot.
An insert is a small bucket typically made from quartz or other precious heat-retaining materials like ruby. These small buckets fit inside your banger and will help keep an even temperature for vaporization, while also keeping your quartz clean by avoiding chazzing or devitrification.
Once your banger is hot, simply drop in the insert and cap your dab. Then give it a few seconds as heat transfers from banger to insert and gradually heats the dab to the right temperature.
Dosing and applying dabs is easy as you can preload them into the insert and drop it right in. They’re easy to clean and you can keep a few around and use them interchangeably. They’re great for dab seshes with friends!
Cold Start Your Dab
Tip: Try a cold start dab to get the perfect hit at low temperatures without wasting any of your oil.
Cold start dabbing is the process of loading your banger with concentrate first, before you heat it–this is why it’s also known as reverse dabbing.
By applying light heat to a capped banger until the dab starts to vaporize, you are able to control your temperature easily and avoid the risk of dabbing too early on a hot banger. If you don’t get the full dab the first time, you can reheat with your torch again until you’ve completely vaporized your hash.
Spin Some Terp Pearls
Tip: Use quartz beads in your banger to add some action and area to the dabbing surface.
Quartz beads, popularly known as terp pearls, are small beads made from inert, heat-retaining materials and are placed directly in your banger. When heating the banger they will hold that heat and increase the available warm surface area to vaporize your dab off of.
Couple terp pearls with a good carb cap to watch them spin and enhance the way you agitate your dab when vaporizing at low temperatures. The small balls mix and move your concentrate around the warm banger the way a bead in a can of spray paint mixes the paint.
Heat Your Banger Evenly
Tip: Heating your banger or nail evenly will ensure a balanced dabbing temperature.
What might seem like a no-brainer can actually have a huge effect on the quality of your hit. Using your torch to evenly heat the banger will help avoid hot and cold spots and ensure that you are thoroughly vaporizing your dab. Avoiding extreme temperatures with even heating will also extend the life of your nail.
I like to start by heating the bottom of my banger and working up and around the sides, where oil likes to splash and where you agitate your dab with a carb cap. Be cautious not to apply too much heat around the joint or neck areas of the banger as they tend to be more susceptible to cracks.
Time Your Dabs
Tip: To dab at more consistent temperatures, use a timer to keep track of how long you heat and cool your dabs.
Using the timer on your phone or another way of tracking time, you can gain more consistency in temperature from dab to dab, and you can be confident that they are all reaching about the same temperature every time. Same goes for cooling–as your quartz holds heat and slowly releases it over time, you can track how long it takes to cool to the temperature you prefer and then repeat, time after time.
Each nail will have its own heating and cooling time depending on the quality and thickness of the material, but as a general rule, I like to start with heating for 30 seconds, cooling for a minute, and then adjusting both timers as needed to dial in the experience I’m looking for.
Clean Your Banger After Every Dab
Tip: Clean your banger after every dab to ensure a smooth, flavorful dab every time.
Maintaining a clean banger is simple if you follow a few easy steps. First, don’t dab when you’re nail is too hot–dabbing at lower temperatures helps avoid char, ash, and any other residue from sticking or burning into your expensive quartz banger.
Second, use a cotton swab to soak up and wipe away any residual oil or char left after each dab.
Third, if you have stubborn oil stuck on or dark carbon spots, you can use isopropyl alcohol to help loosen and remove them. For really stubborn spots you can heat-clean your quartz using a torch, but do this sparingly as repeated heating of dirty quartz or glass will cause particles to bake into the banger and slowly deteriorate its ability to retain heat.
Store Your Dabs in the Fridge
Tip: Preserve the flavor and consistency of your hash, concentrates, and extracts by storing them in a cool, dark, dry place.
Cannabis concentrates are relatively stable products with a long shelf-life. However their form, flavor, and overall composition can change over time when exposed to heat or light.
The terpene content within your extracts is especially volatile and can begin to deteriorate even at room temperature. Because of this, it’s a great idea to store your oil in the refrigerator or freezer.
Short-term storage of grams I know I’ll be dabbing regularly I keep in the door of my fridge. If I have larger quantities of extract or something special that I want to hold onto for longer, I store them in an airtight container in the freezer.
In a first-of-its-kind hearing, a key congressional committee met Wednesday morning to discuss how to finally put an end to federal cannabis prohibition. Titled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” it was the latest indication of just how far Congress has come on cannabis reform after decades of intransigence.
Wednesday’s hearing highlighted competing visions of what reform should look like.
According to most polls, Americans now broadly support cannabis legalization, with a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in favor. That bipartisan agreement was on display Wednesday at a House Judiciary subcommittee meeting, where members of both parties expressed frustration at the current state of the country’s cannabis laws.
Ending prohibition, said US Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican, “may be one of the very few issues upon which bipartisan agreement can still be reached in this session.”
But while lawmakers seemed to agree on the need for reform, Wednesday’s hearing also highlighted tensions between competing visions of what reform should look like.
Race: A Persistent Sticking Point
The war on drugs has wreaked havoc on millions of Americans and their families, but no group has been more disproportionately impacted than people of color. Despite evidence that Americans consume cannabis at similar rates across racial lines, US Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) noted, black and brown people are roughly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than their white peers. Those disparities are even higher in some parts of the country, including major cities such as New York and Baltimore.
“The foundations of our drug policy are inherently racist.”
Dr. G. Malik Burnett, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Even in states that have taken steps to legalize, racial disparities remain–both in terms of arrests and as measured by company ownership in the newly legal industry. In Florida, for example, which has a limited medical cannabis program, US Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell observed that most people in the legal industry are “white and wealthy” while people of color continue to be arrested. “We have a tale of two Americas,” she said.
To address these inequities, some lawmakers called for automatic vacation or expungement of past cannabis convictions. Others urged more direct action, such as funneling federal funds to help people of color find a foothold in the new industry.
That suggestion was too much for other lawmakers, such as McClintock, the California Republican. Though he agreed with the need for some form of federal cannabis reform, McClintock claimed Democrats were using the issue to inflame racial divisions. “I am disappointed that just as a strong bipartisan consensus is emerging on this issue,” he said, “the majority has chosen to play the race card.”
Other committee members pushed back by highlighting the drug war’s racist origins.
US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), for one, noted that a chief architect of cannabis prohibition, Harry Anslinger, not only “made claims about cannabis that were incorrect” but “also targeted blacks and Latinos.”
“Would it be fair to say that the origins of marijuana prohibition are racially tinged, flawed?” Jeffries asked Dr. G Malik Burnett, a physician at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance.
“The foundations of our drug policy are inherently racist,” Burnett replied.
Rescheduling vs. Descheduling
In years past, cautious promoters of cannabis reform, such as former Sen. Hillary Clinton, said they would support removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act’s most restrictive category, Schedule I, and reschedule it amid a less-restrictive class of drugs. But both lawmakers and witnesses at Wednesday’s hearings said that removing cannabis from the CSA entirely would lead to better results for most Americans.
“The whole system to me seems irrational.”
US Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)
US Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), noted that cannabis is less dangerous than most Schedule II drugs, which include cocaine and fentanyl. But even moving cannabis to Schedule III would leave obstacles in place for businesses and consumers. Taxing cannabis and expanding research would be allowed under Schedule III, for example, but access to banking and other financial services would still be limited. Nor would a Schedule III classification allow consumption by consenting adults.
“The whole system to me seems irrational,” Lieu said. “I think marijuana should be taken completely off of the Controlled Substances Act.”
Removing cannabis from the CSA completely would also “lower the barrier to entry to the cannabis industry” and thus promote a more equitable industry, Burnett of Johns Hopkins said. Descheduling cannabis would allow cannabis entrepreneurs to access federal incentives for small businesses, including grants, loans, and other financial support. That would mean more equitable access to startup capital than is currently available through angel investors or venture capitalists “who themselves have a diversity problem,” Burnett said.
One of the speakers at Wednesday’s hearing was Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who in January announced that her office would no longer prosecute cannabis possession cases. She also filed a motion to erase nearly 4,000 cannabis convictions–a move the court has since denied. Mosby testified that decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis would allow the state to better treat problem drug use while at the same time freeing up law enforcement resources to target bigger public health threats.
“We’ve criminalized what should have been a public health issue this entire time,” she said. Since her office stopped prosecuting cannabis possession cases, Mosby told the panel, the clearance rate for Baltimore’s nonviolent shooting crimes has gone up. “What would my work look like if we were to focus on safety?” she said. “It would be great.”
Gateway Drug & Teen Use
Asked to speak to the notion that cannabis is a gateway drug, Dr. David Nathan, board president for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, called the concern “one of the most thoroughly debunked issues in this debate.”
For one thing, many researchers now subscribe to the so-called common liability theory, which says that there are a common set of factors that tend to lead to all drug use, including poverty, absence of a parent from the home, bad schools, unsafe streets, genetic predispositions, and others. It seems drug use is determined less by what someone puts in their body than the environment that body is in.
Beyond that, Nathan added, “Although there is a correlation between cannabis use and the use of other drugs, there’s also a stronger correlation between alcohol and tobacco and the use of other drugs.” In other words, if we’re truly concerned about a gateway effect, alcohol and tobacco use are bigger concerns than cannabis.
There are a number of bills currently circulating in Congress that address cannabis legalization. The leading measure, the STATES Act, was mentioned favorably by a number of legislators and hearing witnesses. A few, though, objected to the lack of equity measures in the STATES Act–measures which are contained in a rival measure, the Marijuana Justice Act.
Wednesday’s hearing was not meant to consider any one specific bill, but rather to give legislators an overview of the racial justice issues at play.
“Everything in politics seems impossible until it happens,” said US Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). “If 15 years ago I were to tell you, ‘In 15 years we would have gay marriage in 50 states and, in some of those states, we’d be smoking weed,’ you’d think I was crazy. But that is, in fact, what is happening now.”
“I appreciate the fight,” Lieu said. “Keep on fighting, and I believe we can get this done.”
People who shop at recreational marijuana dispensaries aren’t just using cannabis to have a good time. In fact, a new study reports that many adult-use customers consume marijuana for the same reasons medical cannabis patients do: to help with pain and sleep.
A growing body of research has shown the health benefits of legal medical marijuana access, including an association with lower use of opioids. The problem with these laws, however, is that they usually require a physician’s recommendation and/or registration with the state’s medical cannabis program in order to get access. That means many people who live in states where medical marijuana is legal and face barriers to health care are still unable to access cannabis to help alleviate their symptoms.
New research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs this week, however, shows some people in areas where broader adult-use legalization is in effect are side-stepping these requirements to get the relief they need from cannabis retail shops.
“In a survey of adult use customers,” the study states, “we found that the majority reported taking cannabis to relieve pain or to promote sleep. In addition, most respondents taking cannabis for pain or sleep reported substituting cannabis for prescription or over-the-counter analgesics or sleep aids.”
Researchers surveyed 1,000 people who shopped at two Colorado dispensaries and were not certified to access marijuana for medical purposes. The study’s goal was to get a better understanding of how these customers use cannabis to treat their symptoms as a substitute for prescription and over-the-counter medications (OTC).
In addition to gathering sociodemographic information, researchers asked participants about their health status, how cannabis had changed their use of OTC and prescription drugs and if and how cannabis impacted their pain and sleep.
The majority of respondents said they used marijuana to relieve pain (65 percent) and help them sleep (74 percent).
“Among respondents taking over-the-counter pain medications, 82% reported reducing or stopping use of those medications,” the study states. “Among respondents taking opioid analgesics, 88% reported reducing or stopping use of those medications.” Additionally, more than 80 percent of participants who had taken sleep aids, including those obtained with a prescription, also said they reduced or stopped using those medications altogether.
“[T]he majority reported that cannabis decreased their medication use. Adult use cannabis laws may broaden access to cannabis for the purpose of symptom relief.”
“Our findings suggest that de facto medical use may be highly prevalent among adult use customers, and that access to an adult use cannabis market may influence individuals’ use of other medications,” the study’s authors wrote. Despite the fact that adult-use laws are often called “recreational,” the findings suggest that many customers are more interested in consuming cannabis for its therapeutic benefits.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said he wasn’t surprised by the results.
“Several prior studies similarly show that the use of cannabis by qualified patients is associated with the reduction, or even the elimination, of certain other prescription drugs — specifically opioids — over time,” he said. “These findings speak not only to the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis as an alternative analgesic option, but also to its potential role as a harm reduction agent.”
In a statement, Dr. Gwen Wurm, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and study co-author, explained the significance of the findings: “Approximately 20% of American adults suffer from chronic pain, and one in three adults do not get enough sleep. In states where adult use of cannabis is legal, our research suggests that many individuals bypass the medical cannabis route (which requires registering with the state) and are instead opting for the privacy of a legal adult use dispensary.”
She cautioned, however, that more research is needed to understand the benefits and side effects of cannabis, as well as the ramifications of substituting cannabis for pharmaceuticals.
“The challenge is that health providers are far behind in knowing which cannabis products work and which do not,” Wurm said. “Until there is more research into which cannabis products work for which symptoms, patients will do their own ‘trial and error,’ experiments, getting advice from friends, social media and dispensary employees.”
On a recent Friday evening in a private home near Walnut Creek, California, several accomplished, professional middle-aged women gathered to learn about cannabis.
The authors of a new book on cannabis and CBD explain it all, clearly and without apology or puns.
Sipping LaCroix and nibbling on cheese and grapes, they were excited to meet Dr. Junella Chin and Aliza Sherman, authors of the new book, Cannabis & CBD for Health and Wellness: An Essential Guide for Using Nature’s Medicine to Relieve Stress, Anxiety, Chronic Pain, Inflammation, and More.
Like most of America, they’d heard all about CBD but knew next to nothing about it. That’s a learning gap Chin and Sherman hope to close.
Cannabis & CBD, published earlier this month, details the history, botany, science, chemical compounds, case studies, and practical uses of cannabis. The book is a comprehensive and beautifully designed primer that’s perfect for newcomers–and will fill in the knowledge gaps for more experienced patients and consumers.
Whether as a wine replacement, a substitute for anti-anxiety medication, to ease the symptoms of menopause, or to aid with sleep, there are a myriad of reasons for women to seek out cannabis.
CBD helped Dr. Chin get through med school. Cannabis eased Sherman’s insomnia and neck pain.
But the knowledge barrier to entering the market remains large. That presented an opportunity for female educators and health professionals like Sherman and Chin.
Aliza Sherman is the CEO of Ellementa, a women’s wellness network that offers online resources and connects women in cities across the country at gatherings like the one in Walnut Creek, to learn about cannabis from expert speakers and connect with trusted brands. Junella Chin specializes in osteopathic manipulative medicine, and is currently treating patients in New York City as an integrative cannabis physician.
Prior to the event in Walnut Creek, I sat down with Sherman and Chin for a wide-ranging conversation about their new book and their experiences with cannabis. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Leafly: How did the two of you meet?
Both women laugh.
Junella Chin (JC): We just met!
Aliza Sherman (AS): We didn’t meet until last week. We wrote the book and had not met in person until literally last week when we started our book tour together.
Leafly: Oh wow!
AS: I knew of June from Ellementa New York City. She was invited to speak there by the local leader in New York, and it went really well. I read up on her and took a look online. I saw a lot of great, credible information. I wanted a co-author, preferably a doctor and a woman, and she fit the bill. I invited her to write the book with me and she said yes.
Leafly: How did cannabis enter your life?
AS: A lot of people in this industry have had some kind of physical, mental or even spiritual awakening because they accepted the fact that this plant can be helpful.
‘I thought cannabis was dangerous and illegal and would ruin my brain. It wasn’t until in my early fifties that I began to realize it was medicine.’
Aliza Sherman, co-author
I was resistant to it for so many years. I dabbled in high school and college, but it wasn’t something I thought I should have in my life because of the stigma. I thought it was dangerous and illegal and would ruin my brain.
It wasn’t until in my early fifties when I was suffering that I began to realize it was medicine. … I started researching it and I thought ‘Wow, maybe I could use this for my insomnia and chronic neck pain.'” I tried it and it worked.
I was really excited about the discovery, and I wondered why more people don’t know about this. As a writer, communicator, speaker and teacher, I wanted to teach women about it.
A Challenging Spinal Disease
Leafly (To Chin): What about your personal journey with cannabis?
JC: I became a patient before I graduated from medical school. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with a debilitating spinal disease, and that led to years of chronic pain.
‘An HIV/AIDS doctor told me about CBD oil. He said it helped his patients with pain and didn’t make them feel altered.’
Junella Chin, co-author
I cycled through all of the conventional therapies: medications, epidurals, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, rolfing. When I got to medical school I found that the only thing that worked was medication and a brace–that was short-lived, but it got me through chunks of time.
I started doing rounds at the hospital, working 80 hours a week. I had a really hard time standing. One of my attending physicians noticed, and he asked me what was going on. He said “You’re not going to be able to finish medical school like this, to be honest with you. You have a long way to go.”
Getting Through Med School
I explained that I had ankylosis spondylitis–AS. He knew about it, and he knew that there was no cure. All you can do is find symptomatic relief. Dr. Levine was an HIV/AIDS doctor, and he’s the one who offered me marijuana in a tincture form. He said “This is what my HIV and AIDS patients use. It really helps them with pain and it doesn’t make them feel altered.” He didn’t call it CBD oil at the time. He just said it was a different kind of cannabis plant.
I grew up in the Bronx. I was pre-med, I had my eye on the prize, so I didn’t experiment with cannabis. I had an opinion about it–it was for gangsters and high school dropouts. I grew up in a strict Chinese household, and I was taught that it caused psychosis. But I had to try it–either that or drop out of medical school. So, I tried it over a weekend. By Monday I knew it was working. To my amazement, something was changing. I was able to stand and wash the dishes. I could sit for more than a half-hour to study.
I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I went to medical school in California shortly after it legalized here medically [in 1996], so I was able to learn everything I could about both this plant and about conventional medicine. It was the best of both worlds. I decided to dedicate my career to helping patients integrate medical cannabis safely.
Everybody’s Talking About CBD
Leafly: It‘s interesting that the book’s title is Cannabis & CBD. How do you feel about the trendiness of CBD and its promotion to people who may not know what it is?
AS: There are pros and cons. The pros are that when everyone’s talking about it, it’s normalized.
‘Everyone’s hearing about CBD and thinking that it’s going to be a miracle cure for them. But they really have no idea what’s in it.’
Even if it’s trendy, it’s out in the open. People don’t understand that CBD is cannabis and it comes from the cannabis plant. It’s a variation, but it’s still cannabis. Even legislators, they have no idea.
The downside is that everyone’s hearing about it and thinking that it’s going to be a miracle cure for them. They think something is better or healthier because it has CBD in it. But they really have no idea what’s in it–if it’s been cleaned, if pesticides and heavy metals have been removed. They could be taking in toxins and they have no clue.
JC: Other health care practitioners don’t realize that CBD is cannabis, and they feel better saying, sure you can prescribe CBD oil. So it’s semantics. My older patients, 65 and older, always come in and say “I don’t want marijuana, I want CBD.”
So that’s why we named the book Cannabis & CBD. We talked with the publisher and went through different titles, and they said ‘Cannabis and CBD are separated so much in our culture, it would be a good title and then you can delve into it.'”
Leafly: Are there negative side effects to using CBD that aren’t discussed?
JC: Absolutely. It’s not a silver bullet. It can be contraindicated with certain medications. It can change the way your prescription medications and natural supplements work. If you take too much CBD, it can cause nausea or diarrhea. There’s a subset of patients that can’t tolerate the cannabis plant at all, they get very ill or depressed, have trouble sleeping and get anxiety, and that’s something that needs to be discussed. It’s not a cure-all.
Opening Medical Culture
Leafly: Why do you think more MDs aren’t educating themselves about the endocannabinoid system or cannabis in general?
JC: We don’t learn about it in medical school or residency.
‘We don’t learn about the endocannabinoid system in med school. But I’m now teaching it to pharmacists.’
I’m just starting to do grand rounds, teaching it to pharmacists. I just did a symposium at a medical school in New York, and after that I got so many calls from medical students wanting to shadow me in the office, so it’s starting. But we still can’t prescribe it–we can only recommend it–and there’s a liability with it, it’s still federally regulated. It’s not covered by my malpractice insurance, and if I have an affiliation with a hospital, they’re very clear that they don’t cover you if you recommend it and something goes wrong.
MDs as a whole are very conservative. We follow a linear path. This is botanical medicine with a broader therapeutic window than pharmaceutical meds, and that’s not what conventional healthcare is about.
Leafly: For better or for worse.
AS: Exactly. There’s definitely something to be said about the benefits of regulation–including mandatory testing. A lot of CBD products aren’t tested.
It’s not for us to promote an opinion of which products are best. We don’t say that “isolates are terrible and full-spectrum – whole plant is better.” We explain that there’s a place for each. Isolates are more limited in their ability; full-spectrum CBD has a broader potential to be beneficial for many more things. We let the consumer decide.
What’s Coming Next
Leafly: Over the next five to ten years, what do you think the potential is for cannabis to change medicine as we know it?
JC: I think there will be more research into the biosynthetic version of cannabis. If it’s genetically-modified yeast creating cannabinoids, making it in an isolate form with molecular consistency, then the pharmaceutical industry will embrace it and healthcare practitioners will as well. Ultimately I think that’s where it’s going to go: towards the development of pharmaceutical-based cannabinoids.
AS: For better or for worse. There is a beauty and harmony to nature’s medicine. But the variability scares and confuses people. We’re trying to get to the people that think it’s too complicated and simplify it for them so they can embrace something that’s more natural. Because once it’s a pharmaceutical, it’s very different from the way nature intended.
JC: I think there’s a place for both. With plant medicine, when you’re pulling apart the molecules of the plant, you’re not going to get the benefits of the synergism of the whole plant compound.