Monthly Archives: October 2012

The cost behind medicinal marijuana

In Blog // on October 27th, 2012 // by // No comment

Medication is expensive, but it is the price to pay when trying to lead a relatively normal life after trauma.  Modern science has given us many options for pain management and treatment – and has saved countless lives.

However, some medicines offer greater benefits than others and there are heavy decisions to be made when choosing the right ones.

I’d like to discuss a few options for pain relief.  There will be differences for everyone and their individual needs, but here are a few choices.

1.  NSAIDs

There are over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that target pain, such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Pampren) or Naxopren (Aleve), and Aspirin.

This class of drugs is one of the most marketed types of medications by drug companies.  There is no clear evidence existing that the prescribed medicines costing a dollar a pill, or more, are any better than those that cost less than a penny a pill.

Naxopren tend to last longer, but sometimes take a while to kick in.  Ibuprofen is for more immediate pain relief and usually must be re-administered fairly quickly after the first dose.

These drugs can be purchased at nearly any pharmacy, and for economical prices.  A bottle of Advil containing 150 tablets runs about $17.00.  The suggested dose is 1 capsule every 4 – 6 hours, so on a daily basis, that’s 4 (or $0.45 per day).

Advil, and all NSAIDs may produce side effects such as mild constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, gas, headache, heartburn, nausea, stomach pain or upset.

It’s important to read the label with these medications and not contradict medications or medical conditions.  Side effects harsher than above may occur if instructions are not followed closely.

2. Narcotics

Another level of pain medication is that of the narcotic family.  Narcotics target pain by altering the patient’s perception of what they’re feeling.  The English word narcotic is derived from the Greek narkotikos, which means “numbing” or “deadening.” Narcotics are extremely addictive.  This medicine is prescribed through doctors and is meant to only treat the body’s sensations.  Narcotics do not fix any health problems.  The withdrawal from prescription medications can be, and often are, hell.

The longer one has been using narcotics as medication (or otherwise) the more severe the withdrawal symptoms become.

They include, but are not limited to: anxiety, irritability, cravings, rapid breathing, excessive yawning, runny nose, drooling, goosebumps, muscles aches, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, sweats, confusion, enlarged pupils, tremors, lack of appetite, liver disfunction, constipation, seizures, coma, loss of menstrual cycle, and absolute agony.

Two narcotic medications on the market today are Hydromorphone and Opana.

Hydromorphone is used as an alternative to morphine.  It is considered the strongest of a line of drugs developed shortly after heroin was removed from clinical use.

“Users taking over 40 milligrams per day can experience painful withdrawal lasting up to two weeks with symptoms including constant shaking, cold sweats, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle pain, body cramps, and insomnia. 

“Even after the withdrawal, long-term users of this drug can experience symptoms for months, even years after, however, those symptoms are usually psychological, including drug cravings, feelings of self-doubt, of “emptiness”, moderate depression, mild anxiety, and sometimes slight insomnia.”

A prescription of Hydropmorphone, or 240 tabs costs about $73.00.  An average dose is 6 tabs per day ($1.83 per day).

Opana is another brand name for a derivative of opium, also known as Oxymorphone.  These pills are prescribed for pain relief in a wide variety of patients.  The dependence level is extremely high, just as with Hydromorphone.  If one overdoses on this medication, the results are (but are not limited to) respiratory depression, extreme somnolence progressing to stupor or coma, skeletal muscle flaccidity, and cold and clammy skin.  Sometimes, in severe cases of overdose, cardiac arrest and death may occur.

Opana is a common medication.  It’s used in hospital and in recovery.  It’s used to help reduce chronic pain.  It’s sold at $745.00 per 120 capsules.  The recommended dosage is 6 capsules per day.  Or $37.25 per day.  That’s $260.75 per week, and prescriptions need to be refilled every 3 weeks.  That’s $13, 410 per year for pain pills.

NSAIDs, Hydromorphone and Opana are examples of medicines used for pain relief.  There are many other types of prescription drugs that target specific issues, for example, iron poisoning, bone growth or viral infections.

3. Medicinal Cannabis

Medicinal marijuana is a proven pain reliever – and is being studied for new ways (or re-introduced ways) to help prevent disease and fight illness.

The cost of using medicinal marijuana varies depending on the method of use.

Organic, legally grown, dried herb runs between $8 – $15 per gram.  A prescription for pain relief can range from 1 – 8 grams per day.  Some prescriptions are even larger because patients are advised to ingest the medicine only, and it does take more grams of bud to produce the equivalent in edible or oil products.

For arguments sake, the average price of smokeable medicinal marijuana is $12 per gram, and the average prescription is 3 grams per day, that’s $36 per day, $756 every three weeks or $13, 608 per year.

It seems expensive – but here are a few good points:

Three grams of medicinal marijuana is actually quite a lot.

One gram can produce about 2 marijuana cigarettes.  Many patients report one marijuana cigarette is enough effective medication for one day.

Medicinal marijuana prescriptions are easy to administer – no one has every died from overdosing on marijuana! Cannabis prescriptions are easy to modify, and easy to reduce – there are very little withdrawal symptoms.

In addition, prescribing to medicinal marijuana is a step towards other important methods of recovery, including dietary and physical life changes that are crucial to optimum health.  I feel, from what I’ve seen, patients who use medicinal marijuana are more inclined to grow or purchase whole foods (reducing or completely eliminating processed foods) and will implement more physical activity into their daily lifestyle.

There is a lot of research and paperwork to go through in order to become a patient of medicinal marijuana.  It is, however, this time spent and commitment to health that is the long-term, effective way to treat illness.  Popping pills is becoming a thing of the past – and too expensive and hazardous to continue in our world today.

Below is an abbreviated chart of the glaring pros and cons between pain relief medications.

Any treatment of disease, and the symptom of pain is expensive.  But there are natural remedies! And if we can advocate on a grand scale and make these treatments and medication accessible to many, there are ways to make health care affordable.  Taking care of the earth, our bodies and our health are values Westcoast Medicann subscribes to.

Please check out our website at for more information.


A Mom. “The Big Post of Pain Medication Cost.” N.p., 28 May 2008. (online). 21 Oct. 2012.

Cunha, DO, FACOEP, John P., Standiford Helm Ii, MD, and Melissa Conrad StöpplerMD, Chief Medical Editor. “Read What Your Physician Is Reading on Medscape.” EMedicineHealth. WebMD Inc., (online). 21 Oct. 2012.

“Hydromorphone.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Oct. 2012. (online). 21 Oct. 2012.

“Oxymorphone.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Dec. 2012. (online). 21 Oct. 2012.

Zwanger, MD, MBA, Mark, and Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD. “Read What Your Physician Is Reading on Medscape.” EMedicineHealth. WebMD Inc., (online). 21 Oct. 2012.

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Strains and medicinal targets

In Blog // on October 27th, 2012 // by // No comment

When a patient and their doctor have decided that marijuana will be used as a medication, there is at first a sense of relief – then many questions arise.

How much should I be prescribed per day?  How do I take my medicine?  What kinds of cannabis are there?  What do they do?

Each individual should be honest with their doctor when obtaining their prescription about previous use (or non use) and what they hope to achieve through their medicine.

One benefit of using a dispensary like Westcoast Medicann Society is the staff gets to know patients and their needs, taking pride in helping facilitate the right kind of medication, dosage and way of administration.  Each patient is treated with care and on a personal level.

Prescriptions will vary case to case and every person reacts to medication with slightly different results.  However, there are broad assumptions about the amount (for beginner patients 1 – 3 grams per day) and effects of cannabis that Westcoast Medicann is happy to discuss with new and regular clients – and what I would like to share now!

With all the wonderful new agriculture techniques of the day, there are loads of interesting and unique flavours of medicinal cannabis.  But they all started from two general strains:

Sativa or Indica.  And then there was the Hybrid.

For those who are connoisseurs of the cannabis variety, these groupings are broad and dismally non-descriptive.  However, for the purpose of sorting out what does what, on an introductory level, let’s assume that the common folk will react to these groupings in similar ways.

The Sativa

Fun fact: according to Wikipedia, cannabis sativa is “chiefly used as caged bird seed.”  

For human medicinal purposes, however, the sativa strain is used in smoking, vaporizing, baked goods, tinctures, teas and ointments.  The plant itself has long, thin leaves, less chlorophyll than it’s indica counterpart, and takes longer to mature.

Most often, cannabis sativa is described as the day time medicine.  It is

* a stimulant for energy and sense of well being

* reduces depression and nausea

* relieves headaches and migraines

* increases focus, creativity and appetite.

Sativas may also be used as milder muscle relaxants.

Studies say sativas are helpful for patients with mild mood disorders* and women suffering from PMS.

*Patients with severe psychotic disorders, particularly schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, should be under careful psychiatric monitoring when using cannabis.  Also, and the cannabinoids are contraindicated for patients with a history of active cardiac ischemias. 

The downside to the sativa strain: because it works as a stimulant, the sativa offers a cerebral high activating brain activity and may produce hallucinations – while getting the old heart rate up.    Paranoia for those prone to panic attacks and anxiety may be heightened when using sativas.

One great thing about medicinal marijuana, is that each strain has several different sub-strains that have been cloned and bred for many years creating a wide base for interesting and effective names.  Westcoast Medicann Society gets much delight from the titles that walk through our door.  Today, for example, our sativa menu includes Banana, Jack Herer, and Neville Haze.  Some other mentionables include Chocolate Dream, and Strange Clouds.

The Indica

Indica plants have broad leafs cultivated for many uses including hashish, the compressed and/or purified preparations of stalked resin glands.  Indicas tend to have a higher cannabinoidal (CBD) content than sativa strains.  Indica users describe a ‘stoned’ or ‘body buzz’ feeling compared to the ‘high’ of the sativa.

Most often, cannabis indica is prescribed for night time use.  Its beneficial properties have much to do with

* pain relief

* treatment of insomnia

* relaxation, and is less likely to induce anxiety

The downside to the indica strain: it can be very potent, and for the beginner user, the sense of ‘couch-lock’ can be overwhelming.  The body literally becomes ‘stoned’, heavy, weighted and reluctant to do anything else but relax.  For those with plans – break them.  Take the phone off the hook (or shut your ringer off) and be prepared to be out of commission for some time, depending on your metabolism and tolerance.

Some of the fun names given to the indicas are Rockstar, BC God, Ocean Grown, and Master Kush Ultra.  I’ve also heard of Granddaddy Purple, Mighty Might, and Twilight.

The Hybrid

Hybrid cannabis strains are exactly what you think –  a cross between an indica and a sativa.  They will most likely be heavier on one side than the other, as I’ve very rarely come across a complete 50/50 hybrid.  On a whole, the hybrids have the fruitier aromas, and smooth results in terms of effect.  Neither too high or too stony, the hybrid is a personalized experience for each and every patient.

It will take time to experiment with the right hybrid for a user’s medicinal need, but once a hybrid strain is found that works for specific symptoms, the relief can be very enjoyable indeed.

Helen Keller is a hybrid best used as a mild sleep aid and for anxiety relief.  It helps manage pain and stimulates appetite.

Headband eases depression, migraines and muscle spasms.  It has a stony high reflective of many hybrids.

Blue Cheese has a very distinct aroma.  It is recommended for day time use, with a ‘powerfully clear euphoric effect.’

It’s very important to note (again) that everyone processes medicine differently.  Although there is an expected reaction, individualized chemicals in the body can have differing responses to certain strains.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of hybrid strains of medicinal marijuana.  Some (even with the same name) differ slightly depending on who is growing it.  It takes many hours and lots of dedication to decipher the best strain for any particular patient, but it is well worth the effort.

Medicinal marijuana is, afterall, a plant.  Organically grown within a framework but in the hands of nature.  Location or environment, how it is harvested, or how long it is cured can all have varying degrees of effect on a patient.

That also includes how the medicine is taken.  Edible products made from sativa, indica or hybrid strains also react differently in different patients.

The Edible

With edible marijuana products, the most enchanting experiences can be had – and so can the most terrifying.  For non-smokers, eating your medicine can be the best way to get what you need, but also the most confusing.  Edibles have a wide range of effects that can be most unexpected.

When marijuana is inhaled, the active components are absorbed directly into the bloodstream in the lungs and the effect is almost instantThis is not the case when marijuana is digested.  It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour for the full effects to be felt, and the final result is often stronger and lasts longer.”

Many report that eating cannabis provides a more gradual psychoactive effect and a more powerful body feel compared to smoking or vaporizing.

For those who are prepared and know what they are getting into, edibles are also a discreet way of medicating and can be enjoyed where smoking is not possible.

Opposed to smoking, intensity of an edible is more likely based on the amount of cannabis used rather than what type.  “Some newer edibles are produced using hash oil extraction and other sophisticated processes involving concentrates which increase potency and eliminate the need for eating large quantities of cannabis butter.”

The edible can be a swing medication, giving some patients all the relief they need, and others no relief at all.  It is important to start slowly with edibles and reflect on what was previously eaten, what sleep patterns have been, where the patient is, and who they are with.  The more information one gives themselves, the greater the advantage their medication will give them.

A few delicious choices if a patient decides to go the edible route are:

brownies   cookies   lollipops   cake-pops   cakes   butter   honey  candies popcorn   toffees   and the list is never ending

There are other ways to take medicinal marijuana.


Hashish (Hash) is made from the glandular hairs that are chock full of cannabinoids.  There are methods that use mechanical separation technics that resemble sieving through a screen.  There is a powder leftover that is referred to as kief, which is then compressed with heat and turned into blocks of hashish.  (There is also an ice-water separation method).

Or, chemical separation, that uses solvents.  Plant materials are filtered out of a solution and the leftover solvent is evaporated, leaving behind desirable resins called honey oil, or hash oil.

Patients smoke hash with medicinal marijuana, or melt it as an oil.  It can be very strong, and is intended for the more intermediate to advanced marijuana patient.

Pheonix Tears

Pheonix Tears is a product name for concentrated hemp oil.  Without any psychoactive effects, this edible oil is a preventative and curative ‘magic potion’.

Westcoast Medicann Society has Pheonix Tears on the menu as a ‘sober’ way to fight pain and actually reduce cancerous tumors (as well as anti-aging properties).

disclaimer: it does take a little time to get used to the medication so that one feels absolutely no ‘high’, but it’s a recommendation to all patients, young and old.  Applied to the skin, it even helps heal ulcers, burns and scars.

Feel free to check out Rick Simpson’s website for more information, but the general idea is the pineal gland is a huge part of the healing body, and the melatonin it produces is essential.

When the function of the pineal gland is impaired, it produces much less melatonin and therefore we become sick and diseased.”

Cancer lowers melatonin, but smoking hemp seems to raise the levels – therefore, we can say the concentrate of hemp would be quite effective to the increase of melatonin levels.  Melatonin brings the body’s PH level up which counterattacks acid in the body which cancer can thrive on.   (Also, baking soda and lemon juice can raise the body´s PH very rapidly.)

Pheonix Tears are a great way to jump start the healing process.

Cannabis is making a real breakthrough in the fight against illness, and with dispensaries, informed doctors and quality product, patients are reaping the benefits.

Next week I’ll talk about the cost of the this medicine and why it’s important more support comes through.


“Beginner's Guide to Medical Cannabis- Using Edibles | Berkeley Patients Care Collective.” Berkeley Patient's Care Collective – Cannabis Dispensary Since 2001. (online). 13 Oct. 2012.

“Bluecheese | Medical Marijuana Strains.” Medical Marijuana Strains | Marijuana Pictures and Reviews. (online). 13 Oct. 2012.

“Cannabis Herbal Treatment: Health Benefits, & Medical Uses for Nausea.” Home Remedies and Natural Cures for Common Illnesses. (online) 13 Oct. 2012.

“Difference in marijuana: cannabis sativa and indica seed strains.” Amsterdam marijuana seeds seed bank (online). http// 13 Oct. 2012.

“HELEN KELLER | StrainGeniusLabs.” Cannabis Testing Lab | Medical Marijuana Test | Strain Genius Labs. (online). 13 Oct. 2012.

“Medical Use of Cannabis (marijuana) | Here to Help, A BC Information Resource for Individuals and Families Managing Mental Health or Substance Use Problems.” Home | Here to Help, A BC Information Resource for Individuals and Families Managing Mental Health or Substance Use Problems. (online). 13 Oct. 2012.

Simpson, Rick . ” Phoenix Tears.” Phoenix Tears. (online). 13 Oct. 2012.

Wunder, Mark. “Headband Marijuana Strain | Medical Cannabis Headband.” Medical Marijuana Dispensaries – Cannabis Strains, Edibles & Seeds. (online). 13 Oct. 2012.

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Stop the violence; stop the stigma

In Blog // on October 27th, 2012 // by // No comment

will be the first to admit that I'm not usually up to speed on the latest political topics.

I am interested in society at large; how we decide to treat our neighbours within our cities, provinces, countries and the world. I believe in equality and respect for all citizens.

However, when going to vote on that, I'm usually faced with the task of overlooking glaring issues in campaigns, then feeling hypocritical in my choice, and being so confused about what everyone was saying in the first place – it really is a frustrating experience.

So, I tend to go with my gut. What feels right? What feels honest? Perhaps in the political world, 'right' and 'honest' are not necessarily words that can be taken seriously. Everyone is promising to do the right thing, honest, but there are so many opinions to satisfy, even the greatest integrity has to bend somewhere.

It can't be easy.

There is this political guy in Vancouver named Kash Heed. He used to be with the Police Department, then became Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, had a few controversies, and now he's a Member of the Legislative Assembly for BC and advocating to stop the prohibition of marijuana.

There's mixed press about Kash Heed. He's been called a 'dirty cop', and his campaign manager was criminally charged for campaign violations. I don't know first-hand of his history, except what the papers have said, and like I've admitted to previously, I'm not politically savvy. So this isn't about Kash Heed.

But Mr. Heed has recently lent his voice and his knowledge of drug and gang activity in Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver Region to Stop The Violence BC.

Stop the Violence BC is a coalition of law enforcement officials, legal experts, medical and public health officials and academic experts concerned about the links between cannabis prohibition in BC and the growth of organized crime and related violence in the province.

As an MLA, and former police officer, (police chief, too), Heed can discuss some very real aspects of why marijuana prohibition has to go.

When something is out of reach, it usually gains notorious fame and becomes much more wanted. People risk money, reputation, and safety for the dangers of illegal items. And those that can get their hands on these items are more than willing to exploit the wants of others.

In this video, Heed discusses the violence associated with, and financial reasons, why cannabis should not have such a notorious reputation.

Although it's clearly for one purpose (the end of marijuana prohibition) it does make a great point about alleviating criminal activity surrounding cannabis, alleviating wasted tax money and extraneous police efforts.

However, what's missing is the very important alleviation of stigma that surrounds cannabis for those who wish to use it as a healing medicine.

So often patients walk into Westcoast Medicann Society with either the question, “Can we really buy our medicine here without getting in trouble?” or the relief-filled statement, “Thank goodness we can buy our medication here without getting in trouble.”

Understanding, knowing that medicinal marijuana is a valid and very helpful form of pain, anxiety, and nausea relief (among other fabulous effects) should be a top argument in the fight against the prohibition.

Yes, decriminalizing cannabis will deflate gang activity (for this particular substance), save valuable time and money in unnecessary arrests and court dates, and regulate use – which means those who need will have greater access and feel comfortable achieving it.

It is just as important to recognize the increase of positive effects that ending marijuana prohibition will have on people who use the medicine properly as it is to identify the decrease of social issues surrounding cannabis abuse.


“About Kash | MLA Kash HeedMLA Kash Heed.” Home | MLA Kash HeedMLA Kash Heed | Vancouver – Fraserview. N.p., n.d. (online). 26 Oct. 2012.

“B.C. solicitor general Heed resigns again – British Columbia – CBC News.” – Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. N.p., 5 Oct. 2010. (online). 26 Oct. 2012.

Rankin, Eric. “Kash Heed's manager alleges $40K more in spending – British Columbia – CBC News.” – Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. 28 Oct. 2011. (online). 26 Oct. 2012.

“Stop the Violence BC | About Us.” Stop the Violence BC | . N.p., n.d. (online). 26 Oct. 2012.

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Reasons for use and inspiring stories

In Blog // on October 27th, 2012 // by // No comment

Sitting in the Westcoast Medicann Society office, I often gaze at the wall in our waiting area.

On it, there are many words.  You can see the green lettering from the street, and it attracts passerbys to take a rest and read.

It is a list of reasons why one may use medicinal marijuana.

ADHD   AIDS/HIV   Anxiety   Stress Disorder   Appetite Loss   Anorexia/Eating Disorders   Asthma   Arthritis   Brain/Head Injury   Cancer/Leukemia/Radiation and Chemotherapy Treatment   Cerebral Palsy   Colitis   Crohn’s Disease/Irritable Bowel Syndrome   Chronic Migraines/Chronic Pain   Depression   Diabetes   Dystonia   Nausea   Psoriasis   Emphysema   Epilepsy/Seizure Disorders   Eczema   Fibromyalgia   Glaucoma   Paraplegia   Quadriplegia   Hepatitis C   Hypertension   Mental Illness   Multiple Sclerosis   Sleep Disorders   Spinal Cord Injury   Substance Abuse/Substance Withdrawal   Muscular Dystrophy/Movement Disorders   Nail Patella Syndrome   High Blood Pressure   Parkinson’s Disease   Tourette’s Syndrome   Ulcerative Depression

Some of the words may be surprising: can asthma or emphysema really be treated by smoking cannabis?  If marijuana is a substance, how does it help with addiction issues or withdrawal?  What are it’s effects when taken for glaucoma?

Marijuana contains THC which is a cannabinoid found in the plant.  THC causes psychoactive effects or the feeling of being ‘high’.  It also holds much of the medicinal properties people look for when choosing marijuana as a medicine.

Humans can produce their own high through the natural release of various chemicals binding to receptors found throughout the body.  The cannabinoids in marijuana bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and produce varying effects, most notably the increase of appetite, reduction of pain, anxiety and depression.  These are considered therapeutic benefits as they improve general well-being.

After cannabis treatment, I’ve seen folk smile with ease after months (or even years) of despair.  I am a firm believer  in the debilitating effects of stress, and the inner turmoil we put ourselves through simply with our thoughts.  The relief one can find when the brain reacts to the cannabinoids in medicinal marijuana is worth the effort of obtaining a prescription or federal licence.

On top of just having a better day, research also shows that cannabinoids abate the development of certain cancers.  Studies conducted in 1974, at the Medical College of Virginia, reported that THC “slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent”.

And a preclinical trial in the mid-1990s, conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, concluded that “mice and rats administered high doses of THC over long periods had greater protection against malignant tumors than untreated controls”.

Pharmaceutical companies are patenting ways to dispense the anti-nausea, anti-pain, and anti-cancerous effects of THC, and have been selling prescriptions such as Savitex and Marinol for some time.  However, there are those who regard these to be sub-par alternatives to the actual plant, arguing that smoking herbal marijuana provides faster acting, and easier to regulate medication.

What about those with lung issues?  Asthma, emphysema, lung cancer…

We know that smoking manufactured tobacco has a real negative effect on the lung tissue and cells: there are strong warnings about the dangers of inhaled carcinogens in mass-produced cigarettes on the boxes themselves.  However, in studies around the effects of marijuana smoke and the deterioration of lung cells, there are other results.

The first difference between a tobacco smoker and a marijuana smoker is the frequency of the habit.  Tobacco smokers generally smoke considerably more cigarettes per day than those who puff pot.  Simply the amount of smoke entering the lungs adds up.

The second variance between inhalation of tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke might be surprising:  Short-term exposure to marijuana is associated with bronchodilation [opening of the air passages].”  This is a breath of fresh air!  The key is not to over-do it.  When any part of the body is damaged or sensitive, it’s just common sense to quit poking at it, and tend to it with care and concern.

Another benefit to using cannabis as a medicine is that the plant itself is so versatile.  In addition to smoking, cannabis buds can be vaporized (heated and inhaled as a mist without any smoke actually entering the lungs), cooked and blended with food to be eaten, condensed into oils or ingested as *juice (from the leaves). *it tastes terrible, but there are miracles stories associated with the juicing of marijuana leaves and the shrinking of tumours.

Cannabis is also not considered to be addictive.  So many pain medications on the market are highly habit-forming.  Vicodin™ and OxyContin™ are two famous products often prescribed for chronic pain and usually leave patients on the hook financially and physically dependent.  The withdrawal from these medications can be worse the pain they were meant to treat in the first place.

Unlike these synthetic drugs, medicinal cannabis has very few withdrawal symptoms and most people can quit rather easily if necessary.  It is the uplifting results that keep patients using marijuana, rather than the fear of suffering through withdrawal.  Because of this, cannabis can be used as a detox substitute.

Glaucoma is an affliction that has been soothed by cannabis for hundreds if not thousands of years.  Marijuana can lower intraocular pressure to treat the symptoms of glaucoma effectively when smoked, inhaled, ingested or administered intravenously – but not when applied directly on the eyes.

But skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis can be relieved with direct application of medicinal marijuana!  Westcoast Medicann Society offers several types of creams and balms that are wildly popular.

Physical ailments and the promise of a better day are not the only attractions for medicinal marijuana users.  They (and I mean researchers) figure that cannabis might have positive effects for patients with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.  More than one study has shown marijuana use is actually associated with an improvement in neurocognitive functioning.  They still don’t understand why cannabis, or the psychoactive effects of THC have this effect on patients with major psychiatric disorders, but here’s what happened:

Over nine years, data from patients at a Long Island hospital was collected.  All of the patients used had experienced a true manic episode, branding them DSM-IV candidates, or patients with bipolar I.  Fifty individuals with a history of cannabis “abuse or dependence” and 150 individuals without this history participated in standardized tests designed to measure cognitive functioning. Demographics, age of onset and duration of illness, and estimated IQ were controlled as best as possible by the researchers before the tests were conducted.

There was a general pattern of better cognitive functioning in the group with a history of cannabis use!  These patients performed better on measures such as processing speed, attention, and working memory, than their non-using counterparts.

The scientists concluded the “patients with bipolar disorder demonstrated significantly higher neurocognitive performance when they also had a history of cannabis dependence. With these results added to what we know about schizophrenia, it is possible that the correlation is causal — that marijuana use improves the cognitive functioning of patients with severe psychiatric disorders.”

I’ve seen for myself incredible transformations of patients.  Westcoast Medicann Society is situated fairly close to the BC Cancer Agency.  Sometimes a patient walks in at the beginning of their treatment, knowing by personal experience or through their doctor that cannabis will help their symptoms while they undergo harsh therapies.  These patients are generally already in good spirits, looking forward to the effects of medicinal marijuana while they start their battle.

But it’s the patients who have been brought up with the notion that cannabis is a bad drug, and not to be used for any purpose, especially to feel good, that change the most.  Hesitation, reservations, scrutiny, and shame melt swiftly.  Those who couldn’t see the light are soon beaming.  They are well rested, eating better (and keeping nutrients in), cracking jokes and laughing at the humanity of it all.  Even if the illness is terminal, there is a newfound joy in life that before seemed lost.

There are several stories online describing this very metamorphasis, and of inspiring individuals who are spreading the positive experience of medicinal marijuana.

Just type in Google How Medicinal Marijuana Changed My Life.  You won’t have to search for long.

From CBC News, “A Charlottetown woman who’s licensed to use medical marijuana wants to start a support group for others using the medicinal herb.  Kat Murphy received permission from Health Canada seven years ago to possess marijuana for pain relief from Crohn’s disease, a condition that affects the digestive system.  “I don’t take any prescription drugs for Crohn’s now. I don’t take steroids. I control it through diet and herbs that are anti-inflammatories,” said Murphy.  Now she said she’s helping others see the benefits of medical marijuana.”

From, a 58 year old, married father of two college grads had his second grand mal seizure in 2006, discovery and resection of his Glioblastoma Multiforme brain tumor, and a prognosis for a median life expectancy of 16 months.  He developed a medical use [of marijuana], and at times is “grateful for my brain tumor, without which I wouldn’t be enjoying my daily ritual of getting high.” Although a brain tumor survivor, he is disabled, but has created “a comfortable life for myself and family.”  He uses cannabis to “get back to normal“. It makes him feel “right“. “I’ve mentioned to some of my older golfing friends that it’s the closest thing there is to the Fountain of Youth. It really does make me feel younger and stronger, and I use it when I have a task to perform, or just want to get a good stretching session in. I truly pity those people that have been victimized by the fear mongering “drug war” rhetoric. They are missing out on something the planet provides for our brains. I now consider cannabis, with it’s chemical parallel also being produced by the human brain, a healthy choice.”

From Westcoast Medicann Society,I am currently suffering with cervical cancer,” one woman wrote, “The product provided has helped a great deal with all my symptoms: nausea, anxiety, sleep deprivation, depression and pain.  I would recommend this service to anyone suffering.”

From Westcoast Medicann Society, a patient suffering from anxiety wrote, “I feel increasingly able to function with enthusiasm and courage, rather than depression and paranoid symptoms.

From Westcoast Medicann Society, I am currently suffering from Crohn’s Disease and Pouchitis,” one man said, “As a medication, pot has helped me maintain appetite in periods of flare-ups.  Without, my guts go into uncomfortable cramping and I feel nauseous.  With the ileoanal pouch, pot helps me sleep.  Because of my surgeries, I now use the washroom 8 – 10 times a day, including 2 – 3 times a night.  Pot allows me to function.”

I encourage curious minds to read what others have experienced with medicinal marijuana in relation to their illnesses and the inevitable improvement of the quality of their life.  Cannabis doesn’t need to be taboo anymore – it’s an effective, therapeutic and life changing medication.  Westcoast Medicann Society upholds all the standards of obtaining your medicine lawfully and compassionately – it’s well worth the time to look into.

And… look forward to next week’s article breaking down the different strains of cannabis and what types of illnesses they target.


Abrams, Lindsay. “Study: Pot May Improve Cognitive Functioning in Bipolar Disorder.” The Atlantic 15 Aug. 2012, sec. Health: (online) 5 Oct. 2012.

Armentano, Paul. “What Your Government Knows About Cannabis And Cancer — And Isn’t Telling You.” Huff Post 24 June 2008: n. pag. Politics. (online)  5 Oct. 2012.

“Drugfacts.” Painkillers. N.p., n.d. (online) 5 Oct. 2012.

Geesman, Jim. “Marijuana Use After Surgical and Chemotherapeutic Treatment of Glioblastoma Multiforme by Jim Geesman.” Welcome to Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine. (online) Web. 5 Oct. 2012.

Gumbiner, Jann. “Is Marijuana Addictive?.” Psychology Today 5 Dec. 2010, sec. The Teenage Mind: (online) 5 Oct. 2012.

Martel, Pat. “Medical marijuana support group in the works – Health – CBC News.” CBC, 2 Oct. 2012. (online) 5 Oct. 2012.

Silverman, Jacob. “HowStuffWorks: Making a Case for Legal Medical Marijuana.” HowStuffWorks “Science”. (online) 5 Oct. 2012.

Stone, Chad . “Medical Reasons For Marijuana | LIVESTRONG.COM.” LIVESTRONG.COM – Lose Weight & Get Fit with Diet, Nutrition & Fitness Tools | LIVESTRONG.COM. May 2011. (online). 5 Oct. 2012.

Tetrault, Jeanette M.. “Effects of Marijuana Smoking on Pulmonary Function and Respiratory Complications: A Systematic Review.” Archives of Internal Medicine 12 Feb. 2007: n. pag. Does the regular smoking of marijuana cause lung cancer or in any way permanently injure the lungs?. Web. 5 Oct. 2012.

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Canadian support and legalization

In Blog // on October 27th, 2012 // by // No comment

There seems to be a lot of smoke surrounding the topic of marijuana and the law.  Although there are several medicinal dispensaries, and even a vapour lounge/cafe in Vancouver, one often wonders about how much freedom there is to inhale, and what kind of serious trouble one might find themselves in if caught.

In July 2001, Health Canada, a sector of the Canadian government, established regulations that would allow people to obtain marijuana for medical purposes.  This doesn’t mean that cannabis became a legal substance, instead, under controlled circumstances, and for certain people, marijuana was deemed all right.

Although highly sensitive, and potentially frustrating (obtaining the MMAR license can take many weeks), this program is a step in the right direction towards safe access and use of medicinal marijuana for those in need.

There are three components to the MMAR program: authorizations to possess dried marijuana; licences to produce marijuana (which include Personal-Use Production Licences and Designated Person Production Licences) and access to a supply of seeds.

In order to obtain the MMAR licence, a patient must meet criteria in at least one of either two categories:

The first category (or B1) describes patients who are suffering from conditions most thought of as terminal.  Medical marijuana is described as compassionate care for those with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS (and all the symptoms, such as anorexia and weight loss and nausea), severe arthritis and epilepsy.

The second category (or B2) of patients suffer from debilitating symptoms that do not fall under those listed in B1.  Such conditions may include anxiety and insomnia, crippling digestive issues and chronic pain.

There are hoops – lots of paperwork, doctor diagnostics and fees, recommendations, wait times, and proof of pain – but by just existing, the MMAR program forces the Canadian government to declare that marijuana is a legitimate resource for the battle against illness.

By admitting patients to the program, it seemed official that cannabis is a compassionate way to treat those in need – a safe, virtually side effect-free alternative to other pharmaceuticals.

However –

No Notice of Compliance has been issued for marijuana for medical purposes.

“A Notice of Compliance is a letter of approval from the Therapeutic Products Directorate of Health Canada indicating that a drug has been assessed and has complied with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations regarding safety, efficacy and quality...All drugs sold in Canada must have a Notice of Compliance.”

If all drugs sold must have a Notice of Compliance, and Health Canada has not issued such a notice, how is the product being dispensed?

Well, some MMAR holders are growing their own plants (an intensive process) and some are using Designated Person Production, or designated growers (DG).  DG’s are licenced growers (that have been given right through Health Canada) to produce medicinal marijuana for approved patients.  The medicine they grow is then donated to the patients, and there should be no sale.

Unfortunately, there are limited DG’s, and only so many patients have the opportunity to be hooked up with one – and let’s face it – not everyone has a green thumb.  Many in need are left without access to cannabis treatment.

In 2007, in the Ontario Court of Justice, a case was launched against the prohibition of marijuana (stated in the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act) arguing that it was unconstitutional for those in need of medicinal marijuana.  It was OK for licenced people to possess cannabis, but they depended on the government to supply their medicine, and there was no system of enforcing the government to uphold their responsibilities in dispensing.  The case said that without obligation to provide the product, the policy was constitutionally unacceptable – access to marijuana for the ill was being treated as a courtesy not a necessity.

If the government wanted to control the supply of marijuana, it had to impose an obligation upon itself to supply marijuana to eligible persons.

It’s taking time, but here is a solution: dispensaries are becoming vital resources in our Canadian health care system.

Here’s how they work:

When a DG grows and harvests a crop for their designated patients (and they are only allowed a handful) there are, at times, overages.  Because of the non-sale of medicinal marijuana, DG’s donate their overstock to medicinal marijuana dispensaries, such as Westcoast Medicann Society, where the product can be passed on to patients.

Yes, there is a fee for the accessibility and quality of the product, but Westcoast Medicann Society works as a not-for-profit society.  The money spent by eligible patients (who do not have a DG or the ability to grow their own) goes back to the grower, or directly into the upkeep of the clinic and its staff, or into charitable organizations, or research and development programs.

Eligible patients that acquire a membership with Westcoast Medicann must either have their federal licence or a written prescription from their doctor.  Not all physicians are up to speed on the benefits of medicinal cannabis, but those who do recognize the healing qualities of the plant and are more than willing to help patients obtain prescriptions.

When marijuana is used medicinally, and those using have licence to do so, there should be no legal action taken against them.  Because of the 2007 case, prohibition against possession of cannabis in the Controlled Drug and Substances Act has become invalid and of no force or effect.

But where does that leave cannabis use, for the general public, in the eyes of the law?

Ontario is taking steps to legalize marijuana production in the province – and is hoping the decision will spread across Canada.  If legalization cannot be granted,  the pursuit of decriminalization is, right now, a huge topic of debate. The big circle around these inquests are about how the marijuana will be used, leaving some arms up in the air.

By lifting criminal penalties associated with smoking pot, although potentially subjecting the action to regulation of some form, decriminalization could give marijuana the same treatment as alcohol; i.e., permits, rules and regulations, taxes, designated areas and fines for abuse.

Patients with debilitating illnesses are being given permission by the provincial and federal governments to use cannabis in the improvement of the quality of their life.  Thank goodness that this is becoming more and more acceptable because hope for recovery, reduction of stress and pain, with an increase of good sleep and healthy appetites are enormous benefits of medicinal marijuana.

And so I ask: doesn’t everyone deserve to have this quality of life?

There are also issues around gang and violent activity associated with marijuana.  If cannabis was decriminalized, the hope would be to limit and/or completely eliminate the criminal use, trade and commerce in question now.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson once said, “Widespread access to marijuana for our youth, grow-ops that provide funds for organized crime, and significant costs to taxpayers for enforcement are all compelling reasons to re-examine our failed approach to prohibition.

Money, of course is a great catalyst for politicians to (finally) take a stand.  Eight mayors signed a letter to other provincial politicians stating, “It is time to tax and strictly regulate marijuana under a public health framework; regulating marijuana would…raise government tax revenue and eliminate the huge profits from the marijuana industry that flow directly to organized crime.

Most Canadians, based on a poll, are in favour of changing the laws on use of cannabis.  For reasons based on health, reduction of crime or increase of revenue, there are many reasons for people from all walks to use, support and/or legalize medicinal marijuana.

Look forward to next week’s article on the broad range of medical reasons for cannabis and inspiring stories of those who have.


(2001 – 2012). Who is Eligible? Medical (online). (retrieved September 25, 2012)

(June 13, 2005). Frequently Asked Questions – Medical Use of Marihuana. Health Canada (online).

Ian Vandaelle. “Majority of Canadians support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, new poll suggests”. National Post (online) January 17, 2012.

R. v. Parker, 2000 CanLII 5762 (ON CA), (retrieved September 28, 2012)

Yolande Cole. “Eight B.C. mayors sign letter in support of marijuana legalization”. The Georgia Straight/ (online) April 26, 2012.

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A history of cannabis

In Blog // on October 27th, 2012 // by // No comment

As a young girl growing up in fairly small-town Southern Ontario, pot, weed, marijuana used for anything medicinal was unheard of.  It wasn’t until after high school that I even realized hemp, an industrious material used in cloth and textiles, was derived from cannabis sativa.  Truthfully, even then, sturdy fibre and paper made from the same plants ‘the stoners’ smoked made me giggle.  Cannabis was a drug, but not the kind the doctor prescribed.  I was warned it was to get unmotivated, apathetic youths high, and then burn them out.  Just say no.

From Ontario I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia.  I was prepared to find the ‘weed culture’ in BC quite a different story than the hushed basement practice back in Ontario.  There is a general openness and acceptance of marijuana’s place on the West Coast; there’s no great need to ‘cloak the smoke’ (even though technically marijuana use is illegal in Canada).  West Coasters, as a group, have the reputation of being recreationally pot-friendly, but there is a wide and growing interest in using the laid-back bud as a certified medicine to help patients with everything from cancer to AIDS/HIV to sleep disorders to PMS.

There was an element of novelty when I began working reception at Westcoast Medicann, a new medicinal marijuana dispensary (now across the street from Vancouver City Hall) however, the real draw was being a part of a ‘new-wave’ health-care treatment.  I have not been disappointed.  As the months have gone by, and more and more patients walk through our doors, I have seen firsthand the importance of what Westcoast Medicann has to offer.

All kinds of clients – young, old, conservative, liberal, of varying ethnic backgrounds and religious persuasion – are being so positively affected by the medicine that marijuana provides.  With this large diversity of health seeking individuals, it’s interesting to learn about the history of cannabis globally, and it’s history and modern day use in Canada.  It’s medicinal qualities, and purposes of relief and belief (one of the greatest benefits of medical marijuana is the hope to overcome the issue) seem to becoming revitalized, and the old stigma of burnt-out teenagers is disappearing – sort of.

Although there are questions about where hemp (cannabis) originated, researchers believe China gave the plant it’s agricultural roots.  Hemp fibre made for strong rope, fishing nets, and paper.  The grains were even used in breakfast cereal.  Care-givers encouraged the course texture of the plants as a counteract to digestive issues such as ‘wasting diseases’ where patients just couldn’t keep anything in.

As the plant moved west, cannabis seeds were found around Sibera, burnt into vapour at funerals and buried with the dead, both evidence of pagan rituals.  Archeologists believe cannabis was used because of it’s ability to “engage a man’s introspection.”


Although not necessarily used for it, cannabis contains THC, which is a psychoactive resin, and the psychoactive effects of cannabis do date back to second century A.D. Chinese doctors.  Over history, cannabis has been documented as both stimulating and relaxing – which would appeal to a wide variety of needs and purposes. Populations all over the globe have used the plant for every day material and ‘soulful experiences’.  Culturally  “intimate association with magical, medical, religious and social customs” were found in India, Africa, South America (Brazil), and Jamaica for hundreds of years.

When cannabis finally showed up (on paper) in North America, it had probably existed long before the Europeans arrived.  Elders of some North American native tribes can remember their ancestors using cannabis in ritual, not entirely for the psychoactive properties.  Cannabis was already being used in clothing, cordage, to make sails and covered wagons, and proving it could make a (government) profit.

In fact, King James I commanded the American colonists to produce hemp, and later in 1619, the government of the colony of Virginia imposed penalties on those who did not produce cannabis, and awarded bounties for cannabis culture and manufacture.

By the end of the 19th century, when hemp was becoming overshadowed by the production of cotton, new petroleum-based synthetic textile companies were the new large and powerful.  Perhaps they saw hemp production as a threat to big business?  There was definite friction over the plant, even though cannabis was also being used in medicinal practices all over North America.  (Between 1840 and 1900, more than one hundred papers were published in the Western medical literature recommending it for various illnesses and discomforts. Just a few of the reasons for cannabis use in medicine were rabies, rheumatism, epilepsy, tetanus and as a muscle relaxant.  Cannabis became so common in medicinal use that eventually it was sold over the counter in drug stores.)

It wasn’t the textile companies behind all the resistance.  The THC and psychoactive effects were becoming an issue for 20th century North America.  They say it was the recreational spread of cannabis use that garnered a narcotic classification of 1937, when the United States enacted the Marijuana Tax Law, making it really tough on cannabis fibre producers (and other kinds of cannabis users).  The Canadian government, banding with the Americans, also stopped production under the Opium and Narcotics Act on 1 August 1938,

Therefore, medical experts also supported the American Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, as well as the Canadian Opium and Narcotics Act in 1938, both of which not only controlled the cannabis economic industry with prohibitive taxes, but also prevented further experimentation on the medicinal effects of cannabis.

It just kept getting harder and harder to use the plant, and a negative stigma began to dissolve the memories of cannabis’ positive attributes, especially with the prohibition of alcohol in the United States.

Even when the mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, published a study that said:

“...the behaviour of the smoker is of a friendly, sociable character, and aggressiveness and belligerence are not commonly seen.”  The study also found no relationship between crimes of violence and marijuana.  And yet, the recommendations of this report were ignored.

Americans were faced with a heavy handed government that seemed hypocritical on it’s war on drugs.  It is believed the Reagan-Bush administration used cocaine in order to bypass a need for funding, and George Bush was a director of a major pharmaceutical company (and major shareholder) throughout his political career.

It was in 1988 that Canada filed its harshest censorship on cannabis:

“To advocate the legalization of cannabis, to promote the consumption of marijuana for medical reasons, to advocate the use of cannabis hemp for fibre, to show how marijuana is grown, to put out newsletters, magazines or videos talking positively about marijuana (or any “drug, herb or substance” prohibited by government) could invite a criminal prosecution with penalties of $100,000 for first offense, and a $300,000 for a second offense, with six months to one year in jail.”

Being taught this public attitude towards cannabis certainly explains my former feelings towards the plant.  I believe when there is censorship on anything, be it thought or material item, a certain sense of danger and darkness accompanies it.  There are all kinds of issues with underground trade – drug lords and black markets, etc.  However, from what I’ve learned about marijuana and it’s healing properties, there should be no such restrictions on the responsible use of cannabis.

When pills such as Sativex, the world’s first prescription medicine derived from the cannabis plant, are being approved in Canada (2005) for the relief of pain in multiple sclerosis, no one can deny the benefits of whatever is in this plant!  (Which is exactly more than 61 chemicals, called cannabinoids, including THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive cannabinoid most responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use.)

And accessibility to it should be of utmost importance.

I truly feel that financial competition between the public and private industries (in which category I will include the government) have set Canadian health care practices way back.  Although British Columbia, and the Westcoast Medicann Society, are offering ways to safely and lawfully obtain medicinal marijuana, there is still heavy clouds overhead.

Look forward to the next article defining where Canada actually stands today, and the support and legalization of medicinal marijuana.


Chris Bennett.  “When Smoke Gets in My Eye.”  Cannabis Culture.  April 1995.

Chris Bennett, Lynn Osburn and Judith Osburn.  Green Gold:  Marijuana in Magic & Religion.  Frazier Park, CA:  Access Unlimited, 2001.  p. 267.

Leah Spicer.  “Historical and Cultural Uses of Cannabis and the Canadian “Marijuana Clash”. The Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs.  April 2002.

Michael Aldrich.  “History of Therapeutic Cannabis.”  In Cannabis in Medical Practice.  Ed. Mary Lynn Mathre.  North Carolina:  McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers 1997.  p. 36.

Author unmentioned, (Tuesday, January 26, 1999). History of Cannabis in Canada. HEMPBC (online).

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