Cannabis for Health and Wellness - Oregon Experts Debunk Major Myths

Central Oregon is nurturing a strong wellness culture. We’re becoming increasingly aware that we can look after our health in a number of non-traditional ways. But it’s not just Bend that’s curious about cannabis. Across the nation, support around marijuana is growing. At least 84% of the American public believes that cannabis should be legal for medical uses. Likewise, even recreational marijuana use is less controversial than ever, with over 61% of Americans in support.

Studies suggest that medical marijuana legalization might be associated with decreased prescription opioid use and overdose deaths. One study found that Medicare Part D prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased in states with medical marijuana laws. Another examined Medicaid prescription data and discovered that medical marijuana laws and adult-use marijuana laws were associated with lower opioid prescribing rates.

Most of us have heard a lot about the recreational effects of the drug. But is there truth to the claims around its purported health and wellbeing benefits? What are the differences between THC and CBD? And more importantly, why should you care? Oregon’s cannabis experts debunk major myths around the plant.

Oregon’s Growing Cannabis Culture

The cannabis culture is very strong here - as it has been since before legalization. States are choosing to legalize adult use cannabis because there is a wide societal recognition that it's a beneficial herb and a low-risk substance to consume. Cannabis has numerous therapeutic applications, as well as a safe and enjoyable way to relax that supports wellbeing rather than damaging it. Because of this, more and more people are choosing cannabis to meet their life needs instead of more physiologically and socially harmful substances like alcohol and opioids.

- Anna Symonds, Education & Partnership Manager at East Fork Cultivars

People in Oregon are more educated regarding cannabis and is multi-use abilities due to the simple fact that they can legally walk into a store and ask questions. Across the country you have individuals who are now more curious than ever due to its recent legalization in other states, but without the proper environment (licensed stores) they lack the ability to talk to an educated staff or even mention the once-taboo topic during discussions with friends without the fear of being mocked or judged regarding their curiosity due to political bias’.

I think social media has probably had the largest influence on the popular opinion regarding cannabis recently. With the ability to now almost instantaneously share or create information regarding cannabis, social media has not only made cannabis data now more readily available for consumption but more importantly, has provided a sense of ubiquity for the industry in general.

- Jacob Onat, Co-Owner, Founder, and Chairman at The Local Market

The Importance of Education

We learned to consume alcohol responsibly - you can space and titrate your dose just like alcohol. There are companion herbs that help make the product more effective, like ginger. People often use cannabis as an addition to overall health and wellbeing to supplement, not supplant, what you’re already doing to live a balanced life.

- Jeremy Qwit, Owner and President at Substance

With the proper education and facts regarding cannabis from a young age, we can reduce the number of underage recreational users. Self-discipline, and more importantly the ability to self-monitor and analyze your behavior under the influence, is the key. For minors, this is where education comes into play.

I completely agree that like cigarettes and alcohol (although still not as harmful), cannabis should be regulated and not put in the hands of minors. At the end of the day, it comes down to proper education. On one end of the spectrum you have children at school and in the home being told it is this life ruining drug, then on the other end you now see it’s ubiquity on social media, television, etc. and sometimes even being used by people who are considered “successful” in the western culture; this creates confusion as minors are being told one thing and seeing another, therefore, creating the opportunity for experimentation themselves so they can decide. With proper education, they may come to find that it a substance that should be used in moderation and responsibly (Tylenol, alcohol, pain medication, etc.). - Jacob

Misconceptions around Marijuana  

The "stoner" stereotype is a harmful myth. While there are always as small portion of folks who will abuse any substance (including common things like alcohol and food), most cannabis consumers aren't heavy users and they run the gamut of demographics. Those who enjoy cannabis or use it for medicinal purposes include loving parents, successful professionals, and engaged community members. - Anna

Many people who use the drug recreationally have the inclination or inference that the higher the THC concentration, the better the quality of the product. Rightfully so people want the most bang for their buck, however, every strain has different genetic lineage and therefore comprised of different compounds that affect each individual user differently. The focus should be on the terpene analysis (smell/favor) which has a tremendous effect on how you feel after consumption. - Jacob

How Can Cannabis Increase Wellbeing?

There are so many benefits, it would be unfair just to pick one. In all reality, it is completely dependent on the individual. Each individual has the ability to benefit differently. Many experience reduced anxiety, pain relief, sleep aid, cellular regeneration, and mass cellular degradation. Taking CBD with a minute amount of THC (not enough to cause psychoactivity) daily is proven to reduce stress, anxiety, inflammation, etc. which all contribute to the feeling of wellbeing. But here’s where education comes into play - if that same user walks into a dispensary uninformed about the product selection and purchases a high THC edible because they heard cannabis is the new “cure-all” and they have an overwhelming and unenjoyable experience then no sense of wellbeing has been accomplished. - Jacob

There is mounting evidence that cannabis is helpful for numerous different conditions, and supports wellness by supplementing the body's endocannabinoid system and helping to maintain homeostasis in the body. Beyond the physical, many users express that cannabis allows an enhanced appreciation of music, food, art, and touch. It has the potential to foster a gentleness of spirit and a spiritual connection that is sorely lacking in our society.

The science is far behind where we need it to be to really understand everything that CBD can do for the human body. That said, the initial directions are incredibly promising for numerous different therapeutic potentials, including with cancer, neurological dysfunction, autoimmune disorders, cognitive issues, gastrointestinal disorders, migraines, and more. For the average person, CBD supports an optimal balance in the activity of our body systems and offers gentle but powerful anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects that can make a meaningful difference in improving people's lives. - Anna  

Cannabis can be especially beneficial for patients in retirement homes and assisted living communities. Those suffering from chemotherapy’s effects, agitation due to Alzheimer's, and older adults suffering from chronic inflammation can find relief from the plant as an alternative to morphine. In many cases, it’s also a safe alternative to morphine.

Many facilities for older adults are short-staffed. As a result, staffs are working 24-hour shifts while medicating patients. If medications are administered improperly or mixed up, the results can be deadly. If you can use cannabis to pull unnecessary medications out of an elder care facility, it minimizes the risk of giving wrong pills to the wrong person. - Jeremy

THC and CBD Basics

You need THC to correctly absorb CBD - like vitamin D and calcium. The best CBD : THC ratio depends on the individual. Everyone has a different endocannabinoid system. Rather than making a general recommendation, it’s better and safer to go with what works for you - just like alcohol. everyone processes it differently. What you’ve eaten, what time of day it is, and your current emotional state all play into the equation. Start low, and go slow. - Jeremy

We still have much to learn about THC's specific therapeutic potentials, which include many of the same areas. However, it's a bit easier to study THC because its effects are receptor-dependent, which allows for easier study of the mechanism of action, thus more simple intervention. For common issues, THC offers relief from acute and chronic pain, is an excellent muscle relaxant, and is a tremendous help with appetite and GI issues. - Anna

Why Cannabis Counts

There are numerous and significant challenges that come with doing this work as a business - a disproportionate taxation, a heavy regulatory burden, a state-restricted market that creates artificial oversupplies, a hostile federal government, and the list goes on. However, it's all worth it - connecting with others to share cannabis knowledge and hear their stories is an incredible privilege.

Brothers Aaron and Nathan Howard founded East Fork after growing medically for their older brother Wesley, who was born with a neurological condition that gave him many severe symptoms, including seizures. After witnessing firsthand the benefits of organically grown CBD-rich cultivars, they made it their mission to bring this superior plant medicine to as many people as possible. - Anna 

Cannabis reduces inflammation in the body, and inflammation is the root of disease. We have endocannabinoid receptors throughout our bodies. Many people take cannabis to reduce stress. How is that helpful? Take a look at autoimmune disorders - if you can minimize stress, the body doesn’t have the same autoimmune reaction. That doesn’t make the disorder go away, but reducing your stress reduces the body’s autoimmune response. As a result, cannabis helps not only patients, but their families cope with these major life changes.

It’s not as black and white as “cannabis cures cancer” - but if it makes someone who is suffering feel better, then what’s wrong with that? - Jeremy