A recent discovery at an ancient Jewish temple showed early Jewish culture used cannabis in their religious practice.
An ancient temple with two altars was discovered at what is now called the Judahite Fortress at Tel Arad in the Negev desert. Inside the fortress, archeologists found a structure that was used for religious practices. There were 2 altars in the temple. Discovered in the 1960s, Tel Arad the archeologists noted at the time both altars had residue on them. The residue wasn’t analyzed at the time of discovery because instruments were not sensitive enough. Now we have mass spectrometers to identify the residue compounds. These new devices allowed archeologists to determine the residue on the altars included THC.
New Finding from an Old Dig
Saying there’s cannabis residue on a “Jewish” altar from 2500 years ago might sound cool, but that statement misses something important. The Jewish rituals of 2500 years ago were certainly different from today’s practice of Judaism. We don’t know what those practices exactly were, but we do know they were different from today’s, except for one thing; monotheism. The Jewish religion differed from most other religions in a belief in one god. Not one major god with other minor gods, but one god. Only one.
Was Cannabis Really Used to Get High During Rituals?
We don’t really know whether the attendees at the rites in this temple or generally in Jewish practice of the time got high. Judaic practice 2500 years ago has little to do with Judaic practice today. The Torah, the central book in the practice of Judaism was written about 3300 years ago, probably was part of the ritual somehow. It was handed down to Moses, supposedly at Mount Sinai. It was probably written while the Jewish people were in exile in Babylonia, about 3800 years ago. That would make authorship of the first five books of the bible in around 1300 BCE. Cannabis is mentioned in the bible as well. So we truly don’t know if the plant was used to get high during the rituals of the time.
Surprisingly, the modern Hebrew word for cannabis is pronounced ca-na-bos and that comes from an even older word, KaNeH BoSeM, which means fragrant reed. It’s mentioned in Exodus it’s mentioned as an ingredient in an anointing oil where the ingredients are spelled out. From this, we can gather that cannabis was a salve used by the ancient Jews.
Is Cannabis Kosher?
Through all of this you might wonder, is cannabis kosher? It’s a plant, so yes it is. Kosher food can be a little intimidating to folks. But it’s actually quite simple at the basic level. There are three classes of food in kosher cooking; meat, dairy and pareve. Meat and dairy are never mixed together. All plants fall into a category of pareve foods. So do eggs and fish. Pareve can be mixed with meat or dairy. So yes, cannabis is kosher. It’s a plant. To my way of thinking, in order for plants to be kosher, they should be organic and they should be non-GMO. And if you need an official blessing to know that cannabis is really kosher, here’s a short video of the chief rabbi in Israel blessing a marijuana plant for Passover, so not only is cannabis kosher it’s also kosher for Passover! Amazing.
Some organizations like Chabad have an official position that cannabis is not good for you. Their views go back to the 1970s and are outdated and misinformed. The views in our society have changed considerably, both socially and scientifically, since the 1970s, so I’d take the view with a grain of salt. Not to say it’s 100% uninformed, as their views on the ‘kosher-ness’ of cannabis have a great deal of validity.
It does get complicated though. If you smoke your marijuana, there is no kosher about it. Kosher is about the foods you consume. Smoking, while consuming, doesn’t go into your stomach and that’s what Kosher is about. But if you take cannabis for medical reasons, and we all have ‘medical’ reasons for consuming cannabis, and it’s in pill form, then you should be concerned about how the cannabis is packaged. If it’s packaged with pork products or shellfish products, then it can’t be Kosher. But if you’re taking the pill for a true medical condition, then you can get a pass on the Kosher-ness of the pill. Like most Jewish law, it’s complicated.
While we don’t know exactly what the fragrant reed was used for back in those days of antiquity, I’m going to make a WAG (wild ass guess) that if it was known, some people used it to get high. This is pure conjecture, but give me a break. If you have a plant and you know it does something good to you, some people are going to avail themselves to the use of the plant.
What Does it Mean to be a Canniseur of Cannabis?
Is it the same as being a wine connoisseur?
During the 25 or so years I worked in the wine business, I discovered a lot of people like wine but about 90% weren’t particular about what they drank. They were, however, extremely sensitive about the price. It had to taste good enough. If a $5 bottle tasted like $5, that was OK. If that same $5 bottle tasted like $7 or $8, they were consumers for life. Why should cannabis and the people who consume cannabis be any different?
The Canniseur of Cannabis
As with wine, about 90% of cannabis consumers aren’t fussy about the quality of their weed, but they are particular about the cost. If it gets them high and it’s cheap, they’re happy. Personally, both taste and quality of both my wine and my weed are where it’s at. Selling a bottle of wine for $6 isn’t hard. It’s the same for cannabis flower. At $6 per gram, it’ll fly out the door. I’ve watched many people walk into a dispensary and ask which strain is the cheapest, or which strain has the highest THC content.
I didn’t understand this in the beginning. After spending enough time in dispensaries, I began to understand the analog between wine and cannabis consumers is real. Asking how much THC is in the flower is like going into a wine shop or liquor store and asking for the Chardonnay with the highest alcohol content. Overly alcoholic wine, and I’m not talking about Port that has 20% alcohol content but a table wine, with that much alcohol tastes terrible. For me, 30% THC flower is overpowering. But many people want exactly that.
What I Look for in a Wine
Wine is a love of mine and no two wines taste alike. What I’m looking for when I drink wine can be described in four words; Color, aroma, taste and finish.
Color / appearance; Is the wine completely clear? If it’s a red wine, what color red is it? Deep and dark or light and clear? For a white wine, is it golden, clear or straw-colored?
Aroma (or nose in the wine biz) is how the wine smells. Does the aroma only have one or two discrete smells? That’s a simple wine which is not bad in and of itself. Is it complex (as good and great wines are)? Are there a lot of aromas in the wine you can pick out clearly?
Taste in your wine should be well defined. Are there just a few flavors or a lot of flavors (complexity)?
Finish or aftertaste. How long do you taste the wine after you’ve swallowed your sip (or gulp!). In most wines, there is no lingering finish. Some wines have an aftertaste that goes on and on and on and that’s one of the definitions of great wine.
I have tasting notes for about 5,000 wines and have tasted several times that without taking notes and can unequivocally state that I’ve had only five or ten truly great wines in my life. Really. They’re that rare and they’re that memorable. I’ve had hundreds of incredibly good wines in my life, but they weren’t like that handful at the top. I can say the same for great cannabis.
What I Look for in Cannabis
I like the effect of cannabis more than I like the effect of alcohol. Like wine, cannabis quality consists of four areas; appearance, aroma, taste, and the finish (the effect). The first three can be evaluated pretty much the same as wine, but the last (the effect) is more difficult to describe and is developing a language of its own.
Look at the bud and ask; Is it pretty? Is it well trimmed or is it over trimmed? Does it appear tight and compact or is it loose? Too tight and it might have been grown with Plant Growth Regulators (PRGs, which are bad) Is it dry and crumbly (bad) or is it pliant and has some moisture left in the buds. What are the colors in the flower? Are there some bright orange pistils or is it covered with them (a sign of possible PGR use) or is it tight or loose?
Does the cannabis cultivar have a bright fresh aroma? What does it smell like? Fruit, muskiness, lemony or whatever? The aroma, which should be readily distinguishable in cannabis should be different from cultivar to cultivar and in great cannabis has a lot of different elements. I love the differences in terpenes from strain to strain. Just like a great wine, some cannabis flowers have wonderful aromas that are very distinguishable, but most cannabis strains, while being pleasant to smell, aren’t that complex.
Does it taste like it smells? In the cannabis world I inhabit, the taste is as important as the smell. If it smells lemony, is there a lemony taste? Is it harsh or is it smooth? Here is where you’ll taste how well it’s been cured. Well-cured cannabis is smooth while poorly cured cannabis flower is harsh and will probably make you cough.
Then there’s the effect. Some flower gives me a buzz that, for lack of a better word, is generic. “Yep, it’s a buzz alright, but it’s not a distinguishable buzz.” It’s either a bit energizing or a bit sleepy and then it just locks me to the couch after about an hour. The cannabis effect that I look for has a super energizing feel with a mental feeling of openness. It’s what I like. You may like something different. It’s all good.
What is a Canniseur?
Being a cannabis canniseur doesn’t mean you’re a cannabis snob, although it does mean you’re aware of all the things about cannabis that matter (see above). Like wine, I’ve only had what I consider great bud four or five times. I’ve had some really good weed and I’ve had a lot of mediocre weed. When weed was illegal everywhere, I didn’t have much choice. But now, as the legal cannabis world opens up, I find myself looking for that holy grail of great weed in a dispensary. I’ve found some pretty good strains legally and I’ve found some dispensary weed to be almost great. At dispensaries I’ve never found any awesome weed. This may be the difference between black market and dispensary cannabis, not that black market cannabis has given me anything truly great in a while.
A canniseur takes care of their flowers. I store mine in the jars with a 62% Boveda humidifier packet. This keeps the buds fresh. I also like to have a little bit of a lot of strains around. So I’ll buy a gram, or an eighth if I really like a strain. And then I’ll want more, which is a different story.
There is an answer to the low-quality weed found in most dispensaries. Growers supplying dispensaries need to step up their game. Too many people just accept what they get, especially if it’s cheap. There will always be that 10% or so of cannabis consumers who do care about the quality. They won’t win the day and the cannabis they buy won’t be exceptional. Maybe if we pay $40 or $50 per gram for flower that approaches greatness and $75 per gram for truly great weed cost, that’s OK. But only if it’s truly great!
Editor’s Note: The State of Michigan has completed another bone-headed regulatory move that will put more money in the black market. Michigan, which has possibly the most complicated regulations of all legal states, has ‘declared’ ‘caregivers’ can no longer move their product from the medical market to the adult-use market. Guess where this product and its associated dollars are going to go? One has to wonder about dispensary vs. black market cannabis, and why you might select one over the other.
We can obtain cannabis in a far different way than we did 10 or so years ago. Back then, my access to cannabis came through my dealer. My dealer sold one or two (if I was lucky) kinds of weed. I trusted him. I knew he had a high-quality product, even if I didn’t know its exact origin. There weren’t that many kinds of cannabis back in the 70s and early 80s. Mostly it was ‘Columbian’ or ‘Michoacan’ or if you were especially lucky, Panama Red. The dealer started to lose some business as more and more states legalized marijuana for either medical use or ‘recreational’ use. Now there are medical dispensaries (if you have a medical card), adult-use dispensaries (you have to be 21), or you can grow your own. That’s a time consuming and complex process, so most people are happy to go to a black market dealer or a dispensary.
Only having a few kinds of cannabis available at one time began to change in the late 1980s. Sinsemilla was introduced to the market as growers in California began cultivating the highest quality cannabis. Plant breeders started to introduce more cultivars (strains) to the market. Great cannabis became a domestic product in the U.S. Today there are multitudes of cultivars for purchase at most any dispensaries, let alone all the concentrates, oils, salves, balms, edibles, potions, lotions, etc. This product assortment makes dispensaries amazing marketplaces.
I’m a flower consumer. I like it and believe it’s the most natural way to consume cannabis.
Dispensary vs Black Market Cannabis
Today the question is this:
Is the bud you get from a legal dispensary as good or better as the bud you get from your favorite dealer?
Let’s dive into this subject.
How We Get our Cannabis
There are only three ways to get your weed; A legal dispensary, a black-market dealer, or growing it yourself. All States with medical and or adult-use cannabis use dispensaries. That’s how people get their weed legally.
At the dispensary, you’re probably talking to someone you’ve never met before. Only seldom do dispensaries offer real cannabis training and the ‘budtenders’ typically don’t have deep knowledge of cannabis. It’s not much different at a wine shop. If you have a question, you may or may not (probably not) talk to a person with real knowledge. Dispensary cannabis is a ‘known’ quantity and quality. ‘Known’ is because the weed has supposedly been tracked from seed to sale…I call it ‘seed to weed‘.
Your dealer is probably someone you’ve known and trusted for years.
The Legal Cannabis Industry
The legal cannabis industry has a problem. Actually two problems; Regulation and big business. Regulation is a HUGE problem in almost all the medical and adult-use legal states. Most regulatory agencies are acting as though they wish cannabis would just go away. It’s here to stay and regulatory agencies need to wake up to this. The regulatory environment has become a hodge-podge of rules and regulations that are frequently a boon for large grow operations while cutting out smaller growers with their onerous regulations and often crazy expensive costs to entry.
The regulators, for the most part, have created very high barriers to entry. They are not regulating for equality. They’re regulating for the easiest way to do things, which means impenetrable rules, insane regulations, and lots of red tape. These agencies also promote capricious regulations and very high taxes. High barriers to entry for both growers and dispensaries mean only people who can afford access into the market are people with very deep pockets or big business. The problem with big business and large grow operations is the ‘large’ part. Yes, they’re capable of producing large quantities of cannabis with high levels of THC or CBD. The problem is homogeneity.
Dispensary vs Black Market Cannabis. What are the Differences?
Dispensaries can be cool. They have a lot of different types of cannabis, edibles, concentrates, and extracts. That’s their job. A dispensary is a retailer, no mistake about it. What about the quality of their weed? Most of the weed I’ve tried from dispensaries are indoor grown (resource intensive) by big companies.
Big operations have different needs. I’m going to draw a line in the sand and call a big grow having at least 1,000 plants in flower with more being raised all the time. Large growers frequently have several installations. Big grow operations can take the harvested cannabis, trim it very tightly and sell fairly uniform size buds.
Smaller grows, which are mostly hand operations are frequently outdoor grows. They have the advantage of having a lot of handwork done on the plants. Handwork, in this case, means trimming and pruning the plants for bigger fuller flowers. Big grow operations also need to maximize the weight of the flower they harvest. That doesn’t necessarily make for the best product.
The Advantages of Dispensary Cannabis
when thinking about dispensary vs. black market cannabis, we need to recognize dispensary cannabis has several advantages. It’s legal. it’s also been tested for pesticides and other potential impurities. Other than this, dispensary weed is usually grown by large operations. The advantage of large operations vs. small growers is scale. A large operation can grow cannabis for as little as ~$200/pound to ~$500 per pound. Per gram, this works out to be between 4 cents and 10 cents. This is the cost before amortization, equipment like lights, irrigation systems, or labor after the plant is harvested.
When a plant is ready to harvest, it gets cut down. Then it’s dried and cured. This is a 5-6 week process. Then the flowers are separated into buds, trimmed of extra leaves, big stems, and other parts that aren’t going to the consumer. Big grow operations want consistency in their product. That makes for easier sales. It also makes for a “blander” product, for lack of any other way to say it.
Rarely is the effect of corporate weed unique. It is, in my experience, a pretty generic buzz. I believe, high THC percentages are partly to blame for this. When you smoke weed with a 25-30% or even higher THC percentage, the abundance of THC in the plant takes away from the overall quantity of terpenes and other substances that are naturally found in the plant. So it might be nice to get so high fast, but it certainly doesn’t produce a unique buzz. The stratospheric THC percentage takes over and you start to feel sleepy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s ‘sativa’ or indica.’ Corporate cannabis is a plain-jane experience. Yes, it gets you very high. But it generally does so with no finesse.
The Advantages of Black Market Cannabis
When you buy illegal cannabis from your dealer, you’re breaking the law. OK, so you’re breaking the law. Potheads have been a mostly independent group that didn’t care if it broke laws to enjoy their favorite plant. Don’t think it’s not a big deal and not right, but until dispensaries get their act together on quality and regulators get their heads out of some very dark places and allow for small businesses (much the same as the wine industry), the black market will remain and remain strong.
Black market cannabis is of somewhat unknown origin, but your dealer and grower want you to come back for more. That means, no moldy, dank, mildewy weed. No pesticides or herbicides. Black market growers have to be more careful with their growing techniques. They also tend to be smaller, operating more like boutique wineries.
Most legal states don’t accommodate small growers. The barriers to entry are too high: both regulatory and financial. It’s not right and until the States license growers the same way they license wineries, there will continue to be a black market with smaller, specialized growers. Black market growers are also prone to use techniques that take more care, but produce better flower at the end of the day.
A large, legal grower is not going to try dry farming outdoors or no-till farming outdoors, and there’s at least one grower working no-till indoors. These techniques can produce far better cannabis flower than large indoor commercial grow operations. So the bud you’re buying from your black market dealer is probably better than what you generally get at a dispensary.
You have a choice; Either buy your bud in a legal dispensary, go to your black market dealer, or grow your own. In a legal dispensary, you sort of know what you’re getting. Adult-use is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia (although you can’t tell it when you’re there). Medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and several U.S. territories. Where medical cannabis is legal, there are many dispensaries. Medical cannabis is no different from adult-use cannabis. It’s an identical product. Cannabis is cannabis, whether it’s ‘medical’ or ‘recreational’ other than a made-up law.
Remember though, when you’re thinking about whether dispensary vs black market cannabis is best, if you buy from a black market dealer, even in an adult-use legal state, you’re still breaking the law.
Is the black market weed better than what you get at the pot shop? You have to decide that.
Smoking in the COVID-19 Era
Where does COVID-19 leave potheads if we want to smoke with friends?
Be Socially Responsible: Bogart the Joint
Be socially responsible and Bogart the joint. DO NOT SHARE JOINTS, PIPES, BONGS with anyone you’re not intimate with and living under the same roof. It’s as simple as that. A joint will have your ‘friends’ bodily fluids on it and if you stick that wet joint in your mouth, those nasty little DNA particles, called viruses will… well, let’s just say one of the few things we know about this nasty bug is that it thrives in bodily fluids when we’re contagious. Congratulations, you’ve just infected yourself. There is a ‘high’ chance you’ll get COVID-19. You don’t want that.
Many of us are living with a stay at home order, or something more draconian. Following social distance guidelines, you won’t be close enough to pass the joint. If we are that close to people we don’t live with or sleep with, you’re going to get sick.
So DO BOGART THAT JOINT, MY FRIEND. You’ll be happy you did.
A Brief Social History
Consuming cannabis is a shared experience. Those days are gone. In the now distant past, when passing a joint around and someone didn’t pass it, we’d get upset. Hogging a joint is called bogarting and that person became the ‘Bogart’. The term Bogart was taken from Humphrey Bogart and nobody really knows why. There was even a song; “Don’t Bogart That Joint My Friend” which was written and performed by Little Feat in the late 1960s.
While I’m familiar with the song, what I didn’t know was the song was written for “Easy Rider” a very popular film in 1969. The personal irony of this is the song’s place in the film. It was the soundtrack while Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were passing a joint in a hot spring pool and that pool is about 700 feet below where my New Mexico house is located outside Taos, New Mexico. Strange.
Cannabis has been a shared experience ever since humans discovered its salubrious effects on our brains. That was perhaps more than 5,000 years ago. 5,000 years is a long time to establish ritual. We’ve been sharing cannabis in pipes, joints or other consumption methods of our favorite plant. This is now over at least for the near future, and maybe forever. Nobody knows how this pandemic will change future social behaviors.
The scientific community doesn’t yet have all the answers about how COVID19 is being spread. If we stay far enough apart and don’t touch each other, we’ll probably be fine. Just always remember, wash our hands thoroughly with soap or use hand sanitizer after being with someone.
Bogarting the joint is now the most socially responsible act you can perform.
Are You Confused about Vaping Cannabis?
Vaping cannabis has been all over the news over the last several months. Between vaping extracts, concentrates, and whole flower the terms can be confusing. Dispensaries typically list a long menu of “extracts” and “concentrates”. Many of these products need to be vaped. Did you know whole flower can be vaped as well? The most ubiquitous kind of vaping uses a vape pen with cartridges that contain an oil that’s been extracted from the plant. Other products don’t come in a handy dandy cartridge form. They are variously called butters, rosins, shatter, sugar, sauce, resin, live resin, rosin, etc. The list continues. If you don’t know what all of these are, it’s OK. (I don’t either!) These are concentrates.
If the vaping ‘crisis’ makes things even more complicated because we now have to add the question ‘what is safe?’ then it might be enough to just want to say “to hell with vaping” I’ll smoke flower. OK, that’s fine, but there are some things that you can vape safely and effectively. Here are four things you need to know before you decide to vape or you should know if you are vaping cannabis.
1. WTF is Vaping Anyway?
Vaping is the application of heat, but not flame, to an extract, concentrate or flower. Each form of cannabis is different, but the main event in vaping is heating, not burning. Vaping bud is a bit different. It’s as if you were to heat cannabis flower in an ‘oven’ to somewhere below the point where it burns. The natural components of the flower will vaporize and made available for you to inhale, getting their benefit. All the natural terpenes and THC vaporize in the flower below the burning point.
2. Concentrates vs. Extracts
Concentrates and extracts are not created equally. To make it even more confusing, the terms are often used interchangeably.
Concentrates are exactly what they sound like; The concentrated “essence” of the cannabis plant. In this case, we’re talking about hashish, butters, rosins, resins, etc. They use the natural THCs, CBDs and terpenes contained in the trichomes. Trichomes are mostly in the flowers and leaves and are a natural part of the plant. Some concentrates are made by hand…literally. These are traditional methods and are used to make hash. Some concentrates are made with cold water and ice or from freeze-dried flower. Concentrates that are not made by hand are made with water, but can also be made with butane, alcohol or CO2. If the solvent chemicals are completely removed, these are generally safe, but water wash or handmade is still the safest. Do not mistake them for extracts that are made with chemicals. Generally, because concentrates are made naturally using hand labor or water, they’re safe to consume.
Concentrates made with chemicals are more problematic but are generally safe. There is one major problem with chemically concentrated cannabis. All the forms use heat. Heat vaporizes many of the products in the plant. If we’re consuming, we want the vaporization to occur while we’re vaporizing the product ourselves. If there are parts of the plant lost when the concentration is done, so they have to be put back in. How? That’s a bigger question.
Extracts are different. Extracts are made from whole plants that are chemically stripped of all of their THC, terpenes and everything else in the plant. Since most extracts use heat to ‘extract’ the elements of the plant, a lot is lost. Extracts are like the oil you find in vape pen cartridges. They are made from the whole plant. If they taste at all like cannabis you’re used to it’s because the producer has added terpenes or other compounds to give it a familiar taste,
Frequently the additions are synthetic, but sometimes they’re advertised as ‘cannabis-derived’. It’s still not what was in the original plant. I don’t vape oil. Making extracts is very efficient. If you have the right equipment, the whole plant can be cut and in as little as 10-15 minutes later, it’s oil! A machine chops the whole plant into tiny pieces that are put in the “extractarator” (my word) and Voila! Magically the plant becomes extract.
All the health problems with vaping you’re been reading about are from extracts, not concentrates. This is important and it’s worth repeating: ALL THE HEALTH PROBLEMS WITH VAPING CANNABIS HAVE BEEN BECAUSE OF EXTRACTS. Concentrates are not the problem, extracts are the problem. Many extractors have been using oils, specifically vitamin E acetate, to make the oil more viscous or an appropriate texture for cartridges. Vitamin E acetate has been implicated in the recent lung illnesses and deaths.
Extracts are the diet soda of cannabis. Made to get you high, but not made for true enjoyment.
3. The Problems with Extracts
There is a major problem with the end product of extracts. Heat. Heat destroys about everything in the plant except for THC and similar compounds. But what makes cannabis cannabis isn’t just the THC. It’s all the THCs, the CBDs, CBGs, terpenes, and all the other 100s of other compounds in the plant. All you’re left with after applying mild heat are THC compounds.
In addition, you just don’t know what’s in that oil you’re vaping. The process is opaque. It’s a mystery surrounded by an enigma. There are many ways to make oil, or to make oil ‘oilier’, or to make it taste better, or whatever the producer thinks will make you buy his or her product. There is almost no transparency in vape cartridge oil production. That’s not a good thing. It’s not good because you don’t know what you’re inhaling. In the long term, it’s not good for business.
4. The Difference Between Flower vs. Concentrate
A cannabis flower has everything in it. There might be 100+ types of THC and who knows how many different terpenes (more are being discovered daily it seems), isomers of terpenes, isolates, and who knows how many other compounds contributing to the complete effect. We still don’t know enough.
Concentrates have the contents of natural flower if done correctly. This can mean rubbing through a screen to get the trichomes, freeze-drying and/or water extraction, or ice water extraction. There are several traditional ways of concentrating. These methods go back hundreds, if not thousands of years. That Labonese blond(e) hash you might love was made with a process that goes back at least to the 1500s. That tarry Nepalese black hash is also an ancient process. Wherever cannabis was found, there was a process to concentrate its goodness.
Newer processes use water technology to concentrate the flower. All these processes use ice water to concentrate the trichomes in a way that they can be extracted whole, then sifted out of the mash to create a concentrate that is essentially pure and whole. Nothing has been destroyed by heat. No chemicals other than H20 have been added to the flower. No terpenes. Nothing else other than flower. It’s a pure process and difficult to master, but the results can be incredible. There are a few companies in Colorado that are only using water extraction to create their products.
The Bottom Line about Vaping Cannabis
If you want to vape cannabis, it’s probably safe. It’s actually a good way to create an effect. Whole flower is wonderful when vaped with a good product. Concentrates are also wonderful when vaped. Different water extracted concentrates like water wash hash or hashish can be terrific. Personally, I do not consume the oils that come in cartridges mostly because I don’t know what’s in them. I also will only consume water washed concentrates. The other concentrates are made using methyl alcohol or butane or other solvents that supposedly are removed at the end of the process. But are they all removed? I don’t know. And neither do you. Vape away, but be aware of the caveats. Be happy.
Cannabis Research Advances, but not in the U.S.
Cannabis research in the U.S. is totally lacking. Even as medical and adult-use cannabis becomes legal in more states in the U.S., it’s apparent we don’t know very much about the plant itself. We know there are THC compounds and terpenes. We do not know how many different terpene compounds there are. Nor do we know how many CBD compounds or derivatives of THC there are. We don’t know what other compounds might be specific to cannabis or how they might work with other compounds found in the plant. We simply don’t know.
A story published in Nature illustrates how much we don’t know about cannabis.
A New THC
Italian scientists have discovered a new THC compound that’s 30-50 times more potent than the delta-9 THC we all know and love. Tetrahydrocannabiphorol or THCP is the proper name for the new ‘discovery’. Also, CBDP and a few other cannabis compounds were discovered at the same time. The story is scientific and if you like science, it’s be right up your alley. If you don’t, here’s the bottom line; The scientists who discovered the new compounds only know that it binds to our endocannabinoid system at a rate far higher than THC alone. Does this mean you get a bigger buzz? They don’t seem to know, as it wasn’t tested for its effectiveness as an agent to get you high.
We Don’t Know Enough about Cannabis
What this tells us is, we just don’t know enough about the cannabis plant to tell us what it can and cannot do. The personal story I wrote about using cannabis for post-surgery pain relief are just that: anecdotal stories. Anecdotal stories are good as far as they go, but scientific inquiry is even better.
The techniques scientists use now involve mass spectrometers. However, the changes in cannabis plant compounds, whether it’s called hemp, marijuana, or cannabis are so subtle they’re sometimes difficult to suss out even with very sensitive instruments.
More Cannabis Research
Here’s the bottom line for me. If we want to find out about the plant in the U.S., we need to do more research. In order to do more research, we need to either reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 or or completely de-scheduling cannabis, and just make it legal like alcohol. This means States would be free to regulate cannabis in whatever manner they desire. But most importantly, rescheduling or de-scheduling cannabis would allow important research to be completed by competent researchers. As things stand right now, there’s very little research done in the U.S. It’s all being done overseas. If anything, the U.S. needs to legalize cannabis research to stay competitive.
Purchasing Cannabis in Michigan: A Personal Story
Last Saturday I went to replenish my supply of medical cannabis. It was my first time at a dispensary since the adult-use stores opened in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I like to visit different dispensaries, and today I went to “Exclusive Provisioners” a large dispensary on the south side of Ann Arbor. It’s located in a small office and industrial park. In December, we published a story about the sad state of the Michigan adult-use rollout. I wanted to see what was going on with my own eyes. I was in need of some supplies, so it was an easy thing to do. I was shocked at what I saw.
Cold, Cold Rain and Long, Long Lines!
Saturday dawned. It didn’t exactly dawn it just got lighter…it was about 40 degrees and a hard rain was pelting down. As I turned onto the street where this shop is located, I was astonished to find the street filled with cars on a Saturday morning. This was an office and light industry area! Approaching, I saw there were tents set up. Finding a parking space, I walked toward one of the tents. There were at least 100 people inside and there were about 20 people waiting in line outside, getting very wet.
Medical Gets a Pass
I thought I’d just have to get in line with everyone else. Wrong. “Medical” patients, i.e., those with medical cannabis cards get to bypass the line. Not just at Exclusive, but every dispensary in Michigan. It’s a state regulation. All those people were waiting to buy recreational cannabis!! Holy Smoke!! Literally. 🙂 I couldn’t figure out why so many people were there, standing in the line in the cold rain for weed. But they were. And I got to walk right in. Also, the variety of strains available to me in the store was immeasurably greater than the ‘adult-use’ strains. I had a choice. The recreational customers had almost no choice.
Newbies Might be Driving the Market
I stayed in the ‘holding’ tent for a while and talked to several people. I was completely surprised at what I found out. All of them were newbies. Two had consumed cannabis in the past, but they were wanting to try it again now that it’s legal. My ‘n’ was small and I was shocked at first, but then realized it makes a certain kind of sense. When cannabis was ‘illegal’ it was; a) harder to find and b) you could get in trouble for using it. So, many people opted out. But now…it’s legal and everyone is wanting to give cannabis consumption a go or another go if they’ve had it long ago.
Cannabis Price Appears to be the Top Priority
While it isn’t surprising to find so many people wanting to experiment with legal cannabis, I discovered most people were interested in the price. As in, finding out what was the least expensive cannabis they could buy. The price of cannabis is the price of cannabis. And yes, there’s an analog in the wine business. In today’s market, Two Buck Chuck and Barefoot dominate sales in groceries and wine stores. The wines sell at decent, but not great margins, but they sell in volume. Why would cannabis be any different? I don’t know what margins are like in this business, but I’m beginning see there’s a lot of room to discount and make deals. And there are lots deals out there.
Michigan: At the End of the Day it’s the Black Market
So far, for consumers purchasing adult use cannabis products it’s not that easy. In Michigan, the medical cannabis community gets the cannabis products first. Adult-use cannabis sales can happen once the product has been in the store for 30 days. I’m sure that most dispensaries would gladly let anyone in over the legal age for purchasing cannabis products. It’s so hard to actually purchase adult-use cannabis that the real bottom line is this; I know a black market dealer who only sells cannabis. He told me his business has never been better!
When I found out I had cancer, I freaked out. Good old fashioned 1970’s style freak out. F.R.E.A.K.E.D. O.U.T.!!!!! Cancer? I can’t possibly have cancer! What am I going to do? I decided to get it treated, that’s what. This is my story on managing pain with cannabis.
I needed an invasive procedure. The only thing ‘western medicine’ offers for pain relief are opiates. While opiates do ‘kill’ the pain, they make me feel nauseated. I decided to try cannabis for pain relief after surgery.
This is My Cannabis Pain Relief Experiment
Would cannabis work to control or mitigate my pain? What kinds of cannabis would work best? I wanted to find out for myself if cannabis could do the job of ameliorating my post-procedure pain.
I had the procedure a few weeks ago. It wasn’t exactly surgery because I wasn’t cut open and it didn’t involve general anesthesia. There was an anesthesiologist and he did knock me out and numb me up. The physician didn’t cut, he punctured; Four pretty big needle-like things digging around inside, through my back. That’s enough detail. This already borders on TMI. I liked that my procedure didn’t involve open surgery or general anesthesia. Issues have been reported with cannabis and the drugs used in general anesthesia.
Research on Managing Pain with Cannabis
Research was necessary to find my answers. There are pain studies with serious scientific grounding, but mostly they were about chronic pain for diseases like arthritis. There are some older studies, as well. None appear to address situational pain, such as pain associated with surgery or injury. Hopefully, my post-surgical pain wouldn’t become chronic.
There are several articles and studies warning against cannabis use before surgery. These pre-surgery studies state that cannabis users take up to 220% more anesthesia drugs to put a cannabis user under for surgery. Since I wasn’t going to get any of the anesthesia drugs, I wasn’t concerned about pre-surgical consumption. Other articles claimed cannabis can help with recovery pain.
I should also tell you I only like to smoke flower, having never cared for vape cartridges, or pens, or BHO, or CO2, or whatever concentrates. I like bud. Why? Because I believe this plant, in particular, is meant to be consumed whole. It’s a holistic thing for me. Since science hasn’t yet figured out what is actually in the plant, there’s a lot to learn still regarding healthy uses of cannabis. Whole flower fits the holistic bill…as long as it’s pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide free, and doesn’t have mold or little bugs in it.
Day and Night #1 (Tuesday), Managing Pain with Cannabis
I went for the procedure at 10am. Before the surgery, the radiological interventionist said there would be some discomfort afterwards. He was both right and wrong. He was absolutely correct about the discomfort. I was very uncomfortable. But he missed the pain. There was a lot of PAIN! OUCH! He had proactively prescribed an opiate. As I said earlier, I’m not fond of opiate-based drugs. I do not feel better after I take them and they make me nauseous.
Which Strains Would be Effective Pain Relief?
I had just read studies about managing pain with cannabis and wanted to see if those studies and anecdotal stories were true. I decided to try three common types; indica, sativa, and CBD. Then I stocked up (3 grams each!) on; Mango Puff and DoSiDos for indica; Blue Dream and Tutti Frutti for sativa; And In the Pines for CBD. I haven’t tried a lot of CBD genotype flower, so went with the one I knew. My experience with the THC containing strains taught me how they worked and what their effect was, mentally at least. However, I hadn’t really paid attention to their pain relief properties.
It was the day of surgery and I thought all I’d want to do was sleep, so I decided to try some indica first. The most effective indica for me has been DoSiDos. Mango Puff also works, but I decided to try DoSiDos. DoSiDos generally puts me to sleep after about 1/2 hour.
After the surgery and after the anesthetic wore off, I started to feel a lot of pain. It was ramping up to a 7 on a 10 point scale. I packed my first bowl at 3pm. As I lit the bowl and took that hit, the pain disappeared. Just like that. No pain. None. It almost instantly disappeared. Pain = 0. It was amazing!
DoSiDos did the job. No nausea, no strange drowsiness. And my brain felt fine. The downside was the pain relief only lasted about 30 to 45 minutes. As the pain reasserted itself, getting to a 4 or 5, I had more DoSiDos. I needed to medicate fairly frequently, sleeping most of the day and through the night, waking to have a puff of the DoSiDos.
Day and Night #2 – (Wednesday)
Day and night #2 was a completely different story. The day was mostly fine. Because I wanted to get some work done, I didn’t want indica. Lately my favorite sativa strain has been Tutti Frutti. So when the pain hit about a 3 or 4, I took a hit from the bowl.
The pain was very manageable with a puff here and there, but the pain relief wasn’t as strong as it was with the indica strain DoSiDos. I didn’t have many problems coping or working during the day, although it was a bit more painful than the night before.
Night Time Pain
Into the evening and night was a different story. I went to bed feeling a bit more pain than I had previously, maybe a 6 or a 7. I switched back to indica with Mango Puff. With just a few puffs the pain mostly went away, but not like on night #1. It was worse. At about midnight, the pain became unbearable…an 11 on the scale of 10. It was almost the worst pain I’d ever experienced, except perhaps for sciatica or kidney stone.
I couldn’t turn over on my side and could barely move.
I took a few more puffs and the pain subsided somewhat, but came roaring back in 15 or 20 minutes. Soon, I took a couple of Advil, which started working in about 1/2 hour. It didn’t end there however. At about 1am, my side by the kidney became noticeably warm to the touch. The rest of me was fine as far as temperature. My forehead was cool to the touch and my kidney was inflamed. I didn’t want to take opiate medication, so I took another couple of Advil after I had a few more puffs. The puffs helped immediately with the increased pain, but didn’t seem to help very much with the inflammation. The ibuprofen helped after a half hour or so, but not by much.
I was mostly up all night with a lot of pain on my right side radiating around to the front. It was obvious where the pain was coming from. My right kidney. Nothing I did touched it. I did finally fall asleep around 5am or so and was up at 7am.
Day and Night #3 – (Thursday)
First thing this morning, I tried to get in touch with my radiologist who actually did the procedure. I also tried to contact the nurse. Both eventually called back and said my kidney pain wasn’t 100% “normal”, but still fell in the “normal” range of symptoms. Inflamed kidney isn’t good, but it’s also not deadly either. My fear was that if my kidney got too hot or too inflamed, it could cause kidney failure. That wouldn’t be good. Thursday was definitely the worst day of my recovery.
The 2nd day after surgery is the hardest, I’ve been told, and I now believe it. It was just plain hard. But my cannabis pain killing regimen worked perfectly. It did kill the pain, but it really couldn’t quell that much inflammation. I had to rely on the Advil to do that for me. I got through the day, but with a lot of difficulty. I used the Blue Dream a lot, as it allowed me to focus. Even if the pain relief wasn’t as good as DoSiDos or Mango Puff, it did enough of a job to keep me going through the day.
Day and Night #4 (Friday)
Things are getting better. I didn’t take any opiates any time during my recovery and I’m down to Advil twice a day – total. Managing pain with cannabis was working. Tomorrow will be a challenge as we’re headed to Taos NM from Durham, NC. It will be a day-long trip with flying and then 3 hours of drive time. But today was a good one. There was some pain, but nothing that wasn’t manageable with cannabis and Advil. Personally, I prefer the cannabis, but recognize it has a limited time span of killing the pain.
Day and Night #5 (Saturday)
I woke early after a not so good night’s sleep. The pain returned in a big way overnight. I got to sleep late and woke up early to catch our flight. Thankfully, I was upgraded on one of the flights. That helps, if for no other reason than I get more space and can get into a comfortable seated position.
After landing, we got a car and drove to Santa Fe, a less than 1 hour drive. That weekend was Santa Fe’s largest annual event – Indian Market. Couldn’t miss that, if parking was to be had. It was! So we spent about 2 hours at Indian Market, which was fabulous. Freakin’ fabulous. I felt somewhat enervated after that, but we still had grocery shopping to do. After the market we drove 2 more hours to Taos.
When we arrived in Taos, I was beat and in pain again. The first two things I did were to liberally dose myself with indica cannabis and take a couple of Advil. We fried up some crab cakes, and along with salad, had dinner. Then I promptly went to sleep, but woke up Sunday morning at 6:30am. Well okay, it was 8:30am east coast time.
Day and Night #6 (Sunday)
Sunday was almost as bad as Wednesday. Intense pain in my kidney. There was no heat from inflammation, thankfully. Just pain. Puff. Poof! Gone! That’s sort of become my relationship of late with cannabis. I have a puff from my bowl and Poof! The pain is gone! OK, it’s not gone for long, but it is gone and the enervation that pain brings to our bodies is also gone. For the inflammation, Advil works better.
Day and Night #7 (Monday)
This will be the last entry because my pain is pretty much gone and I think I’ve proven, to myself anyway, that cannabis really does eliminate pain. It eliminated my pain, even if it was for only 30-45 minutes at a time.
No pain is a good thing. With no pain, I can get my work done. With no pain I can concentrate. With no pain, I feel more like a normal person. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel “normal” again though. Cancer changes your perspective on what is and what isn’t. It changes my thoughts on what my life expectancy might be. I’m not whining. I’m just stating facts from other cancer patients I’ve known and two cancer videos I’ve made with a variety of patients. Having cancer changes your view of living.
A Note about CBD
I never did use any of the CBD. The cannabis with THC was taking care of the pain. I’d have tried it, but the sativa was doing what I wanted during the day and the indica was doing its job at night. And like most people, We all can be creatures of habit. In this case, up = daytime and down = nighttime. Simple. Thankfully, the period of pain and writing about it was so short that I just didn’t get there. Maybe the CBD would compound the effect of the cannabis with THC. That will have to be a different experiment and hopefully not one involved with pain…or cancer.
My Conclusion on Managing Pain with Cannabis
Managing pain with cannabis works. That’s it. That’s all. It works. Cannabis doesn’t work as long as something like ibuprofen or maybe opiates, but it works. And it works well. Just expect to keep dosing. It was easy enough to regulate on my own. If I had pain, I lit up. If i didn’t have pain, I didn’t feel the need to light the bowl.