Marijuana’s evolution is remarkable. Thirty years ago, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified the substance as a Schedule 1 drug with no accepted medical use and high potential for addiction and abuse. In popular culture, it had a mixed reputation, representing either a terrifying, illegal, antiestablishment “evil weed” leading to “reefer madness,” or, alternatively, a radical symbol of youthful rebellion, an anxiety-reducing tool or a munchie-causing, happy party flower, self-rolled into joints or cupped into pipes to smoke.
While cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug in 2018, the DEA recently approved the use of CBD (cannabidiol), which is not psychoactive and is one of 400 chemical compounds in cannabis. The oil-based medication is used to, among other things, treat children who suffer severe epileptic seizures. Major shifts in education, attitude and awareness have occurred, a fact made evident by voters in 30 states where medical marijuana is now legal and in nine states in which recreational use and growing limited amounts of cannabis by adults age 21 and older is legal. Furthermore, a 2017 Gallup poll showed 64 percent of Americans — including a majority of Republicans — support legalization of cannabis.
So it was no surprise to see an audience of more than 75 people gathered Oct. 2 in the Lafayette Library Community Hall for a Science Café presentation, The Cannabis Corner. A special podcast was recorded as a four-member panel of experts discussed cannabis laws, current medical research and resources and answered questions submitted by the audience.
The Cannabis Corner Podcast hosts, author Joshua Braff and medical marijuana caregiver Adam Titelbaum, were joined by Sara Payan, a public education officer for the licensed cannabis dispensary Apothecarium, and Danielle Schumacher, CEO of THC Staffing Group, a cannabis industry recruitment firm (both based in San Francisco).
Braff and Titelbaum’s substantive but practical podcasts feature two experts per show who focus on the science, laws, remedies, applications, education, resources and stigmas surrounding cannabis. Braff kicked off the conversation, explaining what brought him into the field and to the event.
“Each of us has had an experience with cannabis that made us want to be educators,” he said. “Regardless of the stigma, we were doing better by ingesting this, in some form.” Braff recalled feeling like an outlaw during his high school years using cannabis. “Now it’s totally different. Even the Today Show is mentioning CBD.”
While working in 2008 on a documentary on cannabis, Braff met Titelbaum, a caretaker and grower since 2005 whose patients in Fort Collins, Colorado, found relief after accessing legal medical marijuana. Titelbaum grew specific strains matched to patients’ illnesses and 10 years in, Braff said, “Adam has three children whose dad is a (cannabis) grower.”
Titelbaum finds cannabis essential for treating his Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and with his wife has developed a thriving mom-and-pop edibles and topicals operation. Together, the men consider their podcast part of a progression that seeks to educate people about cannabis as medicine, the truth of pharmaceuticals that research shows always come with side effects, and the importance of determining which strains to use and whether or not cannabis is the right choice for each person.
Payan used cannabis sporadically through high school and college, but “rediscovered” it at age 37, when faced with stage-3 colon cancer, a tumor the size of a lemon and nausea and other responses to chemotherapy. Cannabis got her off opiates and relieved her symptoms.
At Apothecarium, she said, “I get to help people every day, and that’s incredibly rewarding. We were seeing people who didn’t understand how cannabis works in their bodies. I started the education program, and the cancer cannabis course is one of the best attended classes.”
Schumacher works with a doctor who has been prescribing cannabis since the 1990s. Originally, while working during college on changing the incarceration pipeline, she discovered that most people in prison were charged with illegal substance possession, not violent crimes. She says supporting people who need cannabis and should not be considered criminals, along with a desire to educate the public, continue to drive her work in the industry.
As with all subjects tackled at the library’s popular Science Cafés, the ground covered was broad, but centered primarily on the use of cannabis for sleep disorders; Crohn’s disease, nausea, arthritis pain and hormonal issues caused by menopause or gender-reorientation; and mental conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The differences between and within strains — beyond just distinguishing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient) from CBD — led to discussion of hemp- or cannabis-based CBD, percentages of customized mixtures, methods of application (edible, topical, patch, smoked), the importance of selecting a well-trained medical professional or dispensary and proceeding to use cannabis with informed, slow-paced caution.
If there was a message delivered collectively by the panel, it was to seek expert guidance and continue to follow the research. As proven by history, cannabis as medicine and public attitudes about its use are constantly evolving. The first half hour of the presentation was to post Oct. 6.