Before I was a cannabis journalist and before I started working with organizations, I was a private caregiver on the East Coast. The Cannabis Salvation Collective (CSC) was started because my clients were often not able to afford their cannabis medicine and I knew that many people who are very sick would have a tough time as well. I knew that I would not be able to afford to help more people if it were just me, so I founded the CSC to help everyone who was in pain or suffering from any medical condition that I knew cannabis could help in safely getting what they need so they would not be sitting in pain like I was before cannabis.
For a while now, I have not had time to do much research, something that used to be some of the most enjoyable times for me. I thought about Ed Rosenthal, legendary grower and the author of “Ask Ed”; a column in High Times magazine where horticulturalists growing cannabis wrote in with questions and Ed would answer them. Ed’s advice proved to be invaluable to growers the world over as they forged ahead, ignoring the strict prohibition, and grew their cannabis.
Every time I picked up a new client, I would start researching their particular medical condition and find out what strains or phenotypes would work best for their needs. It was not always the case, but for a good while now there is nothing that has inspired me more than the thought of someone suffering when it would be so easy to help them.
A few months ago, I thought of starting a column, initially for the blog, but hopefully to eventually be published in a respectable cannabis publication. I want to thank Phil for stepping up and giving me my first challenge.
I have to admit that when you asked about cannabis use for diabetic neuropathy, nothing came to mind. I went through the research and found out a few things. The bottom line is that it turns out that what you heard was true. Cannabis does indeed help to treat diabetic neuropathy.
In going through the research, I found that one of the first things they talk about to treat diabetic neuropathy is to reduce the effects of the diabetes that caused the nerve damage in the first place. To that end, I found a study published in the American Journal of Medicine last year. The study tracked 4,576 male and female participants aged 20 to 59 across all backgrounds and ethnicity between 2005 and 2010. They placed the subjects into three categories to identify their frequency of cannabis use: never used cannabis, used cannabis in the past and currently use cannabis.
The study found that insulin and glucose levels were lower for current users than for past users. The levels were lower still for past users than for those who had never consumed cannabis at all This means, as the study’s authors note, “marijuana use [is] associated with lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR, and smaller waist circumference.” Making sure that your diabetes is well under control should help to reduce the symptoms of your neuropathy.
As for the treatment of the specific neuropathic pain, a study conducted by researchers from Oxford University in Dec. 2012 using MRI found that while cannabis use does not actually reduce pain, “cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain.” The study notes that the results are highly variable; some people respond very well, others very poorly.
I can tell you that it works very well for my own neuropathic pain. As for whether it will help you, the only answer is to try and find out, but the indications are good.
The Cannabis Salvation Blog
On June 14, 2000, the national medical cannabis movement lost a great proponent. Best-selling self-help author, Peter McWilliams, 50, died on that day. He died needlessly as a victim of the War on Drugs. When Peter was diagnosed with AIDS and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in March, 1996, he did not swear off all Western medicinal treatment and turn only to cannabis. He continued with the medical advice that his doctors provided and the treatments recommended to prolong his life.
By all accounts, Peter’s medical treatments were largely successful, but they came at a cost. When the side effects from the chemotherapy treatments caused Peter to have such severe nausea that he was vomiting the medicine that he was being given, he turned to medical cannabis for its medicinal benefits. He quickly found that cannabis helped his nausea and improved his quality of life. He became a very outspoken activist for the plant’s legalization.
According to an article written by Fred E. Folvary in 2002, Peter’s cause of death was asphyxiation (lack of oxygen by suffocation). He was found in his bath tub having choked to death on his own vomit while following the conditions of his bail and not using medical cannabis.
The bail conditions, which also included $250,000 bond, stemmed from a conviction for conspiracy to possess, manufacture and sell marijuana. Peter and his co-defendant, Todd McCormick, were denied the rights afforded by the recently-approved Proposition 215, legalizing the medical use of cannabis in California. The charges were filed by he Drug Enforcement Agency in federal district court and the presiding judge refused to officially recognize Proposition 215 (even 4 years after its passage), leaving Peter and his co-defendant prohibited from any mention of why he was growing cannabis.
The DEA made an example, as they often still do today. The denial of a medical necessity defense led McWilliams and McCormick to accept a guilty plea. While awaiting sentencing, Peter worked on his latest work called “Ä Question of Compassion: An AIDS Cancer Patient Explores Medical Marijuana”. Even while facing many years in prison, Peter never took his eyes off of his goal to help educate the public about the health benefits of cannabis.
A Question of Remembrance
Peter McWilliams never finished his final work. He announced in his online publication Medical Marijuana Magazine, shortly before his arrest, that he would soon be posting portions of his new book. Sadly, this was interrupted by the DEA raid on his home and publisher’s office on December 17, 1997. He never finished the book, but Peter wanted everyone to benefit from the knowledge it provided, according to his official Facebook Remembrance page.
Guest Video Narrator, Josh Stanley
Thirteen and a half years after his death, on Christmas Eve of last year, Peter’s final work was highlighted in a tribute video narrated by Josh Stanley of Realm of Caring, a Colorado-based non-profit known for helping sick children with CBD oil. In the introduction, Stanley wears a green t-shirt with a photo of McWilliams common among his supporters that shows a black and white picture of Peter’s smiling face.
After directing people to the Tribute website dedicated to McWilliams and his work (http://www.petermcwilliams.org), Stanley points to the picture on his chest and declared that Peter is one of his heroes. “It’s truly a great honor to be able to take part in this project,” Stanley continues. “And be able to get this important piece of work out to the public.”
Stanley then reads A Question of Compassion while beautiful and calming images are displayed on the screen containing many pictures of Peter’s fans wearing a shirt similar to the one Stanley is wearing.
In order for this movement to continue to progress, we must always be mindful of where we began. Peter McWilliams could have just went about his life and he might have lived longer, but he believed helping other patients in California in need of medical cannabis was more important.. For this, the federal government raided his home, confiscated his property and planned to put him in prison. His legal battle brought great attention to the need for medical cannabis and its efficacy for use as medical treatment and for that, among other great works, he will always be remembered fondly.
Denver cannabis entrepreneur, Jane West, owner of the recreational event company, Edible Events Co., responded to an angry New York woman who recently complained about she and her son having to hear people in line for the slopes at Vail Ski Resort discussing cannabis.
Logo of Edible Events Co.
In an open letter to Vail Resorts and republished in the Vail Daily, Christine Arakelian of New York complained that “my son and I were exposed to numerous conversations on buses, gondola rides and restaurants related to recreational drug use.” She went on to insult cannabis consumers, saying they “reek” of marijuana even though they are confined to smoking in private.
West seemed to take issue (as did many others according to numerous posts on Facebook and Twitter) with the broad generalization that the New York tourist went on to make. In her letter, Arakelian stated, “The people who live this type of lifestyle can’t afford to support resorts like Vail that frankly cater to a demographic more like my own, and candidly, you don’t get to be successful by engaging in this type of lifestyle.” It’s unclear as to whether anyone asked her how she believed the people outside of her “demographic” paid for their own entrance to the popular resort if their lifestyle prevents them from affording it.
West defended her company and industry, responding in an open post on Google+, “It is affluent businesswoman/mothers/wives who choose cannabis over a bottle of wine that are selling out the 2014 Edible Events Co. Lineup.” She went on to extend an invitation to the disgruntled tourist, “Mrs. Arakelian, please attend our next event…in describing our female attendees, classy is an understatement.”
No word yet on whether Arakelian will accept the invitation and “candidly”, this reporter has no interest in attempting to contact her for comment.
Known to her friends and the Cannabis Community as Jenny Kush, Jennifer Monson, 34, was tragically killed by a drunk driver in September of this year. Kush was a very active and vocal member of the activism scene in Colorado and co-hosted the SexPot Radio show hosted on iCannabisRadio.com. The radio broadcast highlighted what she said were two of her favorite topics of discussion; sex and cannabis. She advocated for people to embrace their sexuality rather than hide from it and to enrich their lives through cannabis use.Denver, CO- Cannabis activists yesterday held a celebration/protest at the State Capitol building. Led by activist Jeremy DiPinto, 37, who is affectionately known in the online cannabis community as “RevJeremy Charles“, a group of about 20-25 people gathered to celebrate the life of a beloved activist who recently passed and to protest the continued jailing of prisoners of the War on Drugs.
Activist Kris Custer wears a shirt
designed by Jenny Kush
I had the pleasure of spending about an hour with the gathered group before I had to declare defeat as my toes went completely numb. The protesters gathered in front of the west entrance of the Capitol building and were met with cold weather due to an overcast sky. Up the stairs from their meeting place, a statue of a soldier highlighting a memorial to the “Unknown Dead” of the Civil War served as stark reminder to the gathered protesters of the fallen soldiers in the Drug War.
A woman walked up to the gathering at one point asking what they were protesting. She was confused because, she explained, she knew that cannabis is now legal in for recreational use in Colorado. The activists informed her that they will be at that same spot the last Saturday of every month as they have been doing for years until all of the political prisoners of this Drug War are freed. An admirable goal that this journalist strongly supports.
Asked how he felt the protest went, RevJeremy told me, “This rally was one of the most peaceful that I can remember.” He added, “With no signs being held and it being so chilly, this rally was more like a family gathering.” That was the feel. People talked about Jenny and the things she stood for and fought for. They honor her memory by keeping the fight going.
I saw a beautiful thing at the Capitol building in Harrisburg yesterday. There was hope on so many faces that too often look scared and sad. Parents of sick children who have felt hopeless and helpless for so long have been learning that cannabis can help their kids who they have been watching waste away before their eyes. Legalization for medical use of cannabis is possible and is sweeping the nation with new ballot initiatives and state bills seeming to pop up every day in some unlikely places with unlikely supporters.
Team MMJ fights the good fight with their emphasis on sick kids
Team MMJ, an organization formed primarily by PA parents of very sick children, planned a rally in the Capitol rotunda and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. The event was started off early by a number of speakers including Dana Ulrich, speaking on behalf of her daughter, Lorelei who suffers from epilepsy.
Josh Stanley speaking with Paige Figi to his right
The PA parents who got up to speak were very optimistic about their kids’ futures. They knew they are in for a tough fight since they live in Pennsylvania, a state with no current cannabis laws of any kind and strict penalties, but they expressed clearly that they were up for the fight and are not going away because this is their last hope for their children. In most cases, cannabis is their last resort, when it should have been their first. It was not a legal alternative and they don’t want to risk losing their kids that they are fighting so hard for.
It was wonderful to see and hear so many good stories of hope and so many sick children who are at least making it around. Lolly Bentch Myers (a Collective member and content contributor) was there and she spoke of her daughter Anna. Lolly doesn’t believe that she should be forced to break the law just to help her daughter have a meaningful life (or any kind of life at all, really). She is waiting for legalization and I applaud her for it.
Let me tell you, though, legalization needs to happen soon. While the press conference carried on, I looked over occasionally at Anna playing on her grandmother’s lap. Right there, while I watched her happily play, a seizure began. The little girl’s grandmother sat with her and held her tight telling her softly that everything would be okay and things would be better soon. Anna’s face showed fear, as you would expect. Fear and a sort of blank look of confusion. The scene (recorded with my iPhone and published with permission) was both sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.
Debby Bentch with her granddaughter, Anna
As I watched the seizure end, I dreamed of a day when I would not have to see Anna scared and in pain. She does not have to violently shake and damage her health even further in the process, not to mention other problems that are not so visible. I listened to Josh Stanley speak about how it is time for Pennsylvanians to tell their lawmakers that a healing plant should not be illegal, especially when you take out the THC that is the main concern of the current laws. The faces in the crowd were understandably supportive and there were many bouts of applause.
The Stanley Brother’s Realm of Caring (RoC) is working very hard to help as many seizure patients as they can with their cannabis strain “Charlotte’s Web” named for Charlotte Figi, a little girl with intractable epilepsy who is also the most well-known patient of RoC because she was featured on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special “Weed”.
John Hangar, current PA gubernatorial candidate facing stiff challenges in the Democratic primary, was in attendance and spoke briefly as well. After the first press conference was done, we waited for the next one where Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (D-17) was scheduled to make an important announcement.
Is a bipartisan bill the solution to our PA’s woes?
At the 12:30 press conference, Sen. Leach addressed members of the press and many Team MMJ supporters in the Media Room. He announced the planned introduction of S.B. 1182, a bill known as the “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act”.
Senator Leach is a long-time supporter of cannabis legalization as shown in many public remarks as well as his persistence in proposing bills for the legalization of cannabis in many different ways. His most recent effort, S.B. 770, was referred to the Public Health & Welfare committee on April 3, 2013, but never got past Sen. Pat Vance (R-31) who chairs the committee to get a proper vote. Leach expressed his impression that this new bill is much more likely to at least get a vote because it is being co-sponsored by conservative Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48).
According to a statement released by Sen Leach’s office, the drafting of S.B. 1182 is truly a historical step for cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania. It is the first time in PA Senate history that a medical cannabis bill will be introduced to the Senate floor with bipartisan input and support.
It is unknown whether this will be enough to convince Governor Tom Corbett (R), previously having vowed to veto any cannabis-related bill that makes it to his desk, but Leach expressed his opinion that 1182 has a better chance of being taken seriously by Republicans because of its unprecedented support from members of their own party.
The text of the bill is still being touched up from what we were told, so I can’t comment on the substance or whether I agree with its provisions, but The Cannabis Salvation Collective is definitely in support of reasonable laws that help people in need sooner rather than later. Sen. Leach stated in his responses to questions from both members of the media and a few cannabis activists that it is definitely not all he wants for cannabis legalization.
Leach explained that he wants much more, but he is willing to work with what can be done right now to help people right now. While I have heard of rumblings from organizing members of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and none were present at the press conference to my knowledge, I did speak with several representatives of Pittsburgh NORML and they appeared to be supportive of efforts to do what we can now and keep working to improve.
Unfortunately, Sen. Folmer was forced to miss the press conference due to a death in the family, but he did release a statement which Leach read:
“Who are we to deny a better quality of life to children suffering from hundreds of seizures a day? Who are we to deny less pain to a cancer patient made terribly ill from chemotherapy treatments? There are other highly addictive drugs prescribed to help with pain and suffering, and I believe the use of medical cannabis is another option, a good option.”
As a personal side note, my thoughts and prayers go out to Senator Folmer in this hard time. I greatly appreciate his reasonable position and willingness to break with traditional party politics to try to help sick Pennsylvanians.
A life not being fully lived
I mentioned above that I witnessed one of Anna’s seizures while at the rally. Her mother, Lolly Bentch Myers, graciously allowed me to post it for this article. Anna is getting no relief because Lolly refuses to use illegally; a position many parents have taken even though they have been told by people (including politicians according to her accounts) to just use it illegally.
Thisvideo shows what Anna goes through on a regular basis and what cannabis treatments have been proven to significantly reduce or prevent. Anna goes from shaking, convulsing and scared back to playing like it’s nothing because she is so used to it, but she shouldn’t have to go through it at all. The video is unedited to maintain continuity.
I meant to post this sooner, but I just wanted to remind everyone in the area that the Philly Smoke Down Prohibition 9 event by the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is this Saturday, 9/21 at 3pm. The event is organized by PhillyNORML (www.phillynorml.org) and others. At 4:20pm, there is a moment of cannabis reflection and those partaking light joints at this time in full view of law enforcement as an act of civil disobedience.
This will only be my second one, but I can tell you last time was great. City police and National Park Service officers were present and looking on as we smoked our wonderful plant of choice. It should be noted that 3 of the organizers and 2 people in attendance were taken off by the National Park Service officers to an area set up for issuing citations. The city police had already made an agreement with the organizers not to interfere as long as things remained peaceful and orderly (which they did) and they honored that agreement like respectable people.
Marijuana has been decriminalized in Philadelphia since 2010. The fine is $200 dollars for the first offense and $300 for each following offense. It is a civil penalty, not a criminal one (no criminal record). If you can’t afford or are just not willing to risk it, there is no problem with you coming, hanging out, and listening to like-minded people and politicians fighting for legalization. You’re becoming an activist just by attending and the more activists the better. Simply attending a rally where people smoke marijuana isn’t a crime and you cannot be fined for it. (Personally, I’m bringing a fairly large joint so that I can pass it hold it for as many people as possible. That way they can participate without holding the joint, making it very unlikely for them to be singled out to be fined. It’s not illegal to be high, only to have marijuana in your possession and distribution of marijuana smoke is not a crime to my knowledge, so I’m good. It worked out well last time.)
Do NOT bring anything other than paper-rolled joints. While possession of under 30g is only a civil penalty within city limits, all of the other state laws with regard to marijuana remain in effect (kinda the type of BS we’re protesting), including criminal statutes with regard to paraphernalia. Be smart; don’t risk losing your nice glass or being arrested.
You ARE encouraged to bring a sign of any size with something to show what you’re protesting.
I look forward to see as many of you as possible at the event on Saturday! Come help us fight to get your marijuana rights back!