Ask Legalization Nation

Readers ask questions about skeptical moms with cancer, no-high arthritis remedies, and summer travel.

My mom is a doctor who has colon cancer. I know cannabis can help with nausea caused by chemo, and it can help her regain her appetite, relieve her pain, and help her sleep. There’s also evidence it has anti-tumor properties. I recommended she look into it, but she’s older and says that “pot is for stupid people.” What can I say to her to make her reconsider?

Worried Son

I ran your question by Dr. Donald Abrams, the head of oncology and hematology at San Francisco General Hospital, who is also a cancer and integrative medicine specialist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Mount Zion UC San Francisco. He wrote the 2014 textbook Integrative Oncology, and here’s what he told me to tell you to tell your mom:

“Doctors in the last 72 years have not learned about cannabis as a medicine, so it’s something that is stigmatized and people think that [‘pot is for stupid people’]. It’s reefer madness. If she is a doctor, then she should be educable.

I would go to the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query — Complimentary and Alternative Medicine website. And I would go to [the textbook] Integrative Oncology. And I would go to [the reference book] Marijuana: Gateway to Health. Or you can have her watch Sanjay Gupta’s specials.”

The NCI’s listing for cannabinoids states that “the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep.” And that “cannabinoids may cause anti-tumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis invasion and metastasis.”

Point her to a THC/CBD tincture like the Alta Tranquil, or an edible like the Day Dreamers High CBD medicinal chocolate.

My mom is an accountant and she makes her living with her hands, but she’s also developed really bad arthritis. She smoked some pot in her younger days, and she’s open to using it for arthritis, but today’s weed totally throws her for a loop. Is there some form you recommend for arthritis that won’t get you high?

Coder in SF

There are a number of options, especially in the Bay Area: namely, using topical applications of THC and CBD like Doc Green’s Therapeutic Healing Cream or eating high-CBD cannabis-infused products like the CBD Cookie from 7 Stars medical cannabis dispensary in Richmond. Patients report that these products relieve inflammation and pain without the high associated with modern weed, and there’s plenty of science to back it up.

Your mom has trouble with the effects of the main active ingredient in cannabis: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. When you smoke pot, THC transfers into the body through the lungs, travels through the bloodstream, and crosses the blood-brain barrier, beyond which it can cause a variety of effects. Most often it’s euphoria, or what people call being “high.” But being giggly can make it hard to concentrate at work. THC also affects the brain’s short-term memory capabilities, which is also troublesome in some situations. Lastly, THC can cause fatigue. Who wants to work when they’re tired?

Conversely, the second-most common active molecule in pot is cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is a powerful, non-toxic anti-inflammatory that blocks or dampens THC’s effect — which is why black-market pot growers nearly drove CBD-rich commercial weed strains to extinction.

Ironically, the end of the drug war is ushering in an era of no-high weed. CBD is back in a big way. CBD-rich strains like Harlequin can be found in most high-quality Bay Area dispensaries; check Cannabis infusion companies are also putting CBD in topical lotions. Early studies show that the molecule can, in fact, transfer into the skin and muscle. You rub it on and the topical can relieve pain and inflammation in minutes.

There are also numerous studies attesting to THC and CBD’s role in treating arthritis. Arthritis Today wrote recently that “in a 2011 British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology review examined 18 studies of smoked, oral and/or synthetic cannabis and concluded cannabis was safe and modestly effective in neuropathic pain (chronic pain that results from damaged or dysfunctional nerve fibers), and also had the potential to help treat [rheumatoid arthritis] and fibromyalgia pain. Additionally, cannabis has been shown to improve sleep — and a lack of sleep is known to exacerbate general pain and arthritis symptoms. … And cannabis holds promise for osteoarthritis.”

CBD also might slow down the progression of arthritis. NORML reported that “in the August 2000 issue of the Journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators at London’s Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology reported that cannabidiol (CBD) administration suppressed progression of arthritis in vitro and in animals. Administration of CBD after the onset of clinical symptoms protected joints against severe damage and ‘effectively blocked [the] progression of arthritis,’ investigators concluded.”

I’m flying to the East Coast on vacay and I want to bring some pot goodies from California to have out there and blow my hometown friends’ minds. What do you recommend?

Stoner Transplant

We recommend you read up on federal drug trafficking laws, as well as the local pot laws back home. Leaving California with medical marijuana is not recommended by lawyers and patient advocates. “Remember, the laws don’t travel with you,” said California attorney Omar Figueroa.


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