Culture Magazine's mission is to inform and entertain readers with the latest news and lifestyle trends of America's medical cannabis culture. I've had the opportunity to write editorial, interviews and strain reviews.
Some of these pieces are written under then pen name Jackie Piper, others as Natasha Guimond.
ILLINOIS' FIRST HARVEST, November 2015
Illinois is typically known for its corn harvests, but soon it will be known for its medical cannabis harvests as well. It is now among 23 states that allow cannabis to be used to treat certain diagnosed medical conditions. Even though the state is having its first harvest, the medical cannabis bill was officially passed in August 2013. Now, the harvest that patients have been waiting over two years for has finally arrived.
It will be interesting to see what develops in a state that has been very cautious to make sure everything is being "done right," according to Representative Lou Land, D-Skokie, who has been a strong advocate for medical cannabis legalization since 2009.
There are more than 3,000 approved patients who have waited patiently, 16 of them who are children in desperate need of the type of palliative relief that only cannabis can provide. The care they could be receiving from cannabis cannot be denied. To be so close to the finish line, which in a sense could also be considered the starting line for so many people, is an invigorating feeling.
For now, patients suffering from PTSD in Illinois are excluded from the list and aren't able to qualify for a medical card, unless they can qualify with another illness, like cancer or AIDS. Chronic pain also isn't on the list.
Unlike in other states, patients in Illinois cannot grow their own cannabis. Only cultivation centers that are approved by the state can do that. Those centers are also under very strict guidelines and require the utmost scrutiny when it comes to solid security systems and other requirements.
One of these cultivation centers is called Ataraxia and it was the first center that was ready for harvest. In Grown is another cultivation center that was ready to start helping patients and experienced their first harvest at the beginning of October as well. With over 60 plants around six feet tall, the president and CEO of In Grown told the Journal Standard, "It looked fantastic for our very first harvest … we're very pleased, very excited and very honored to be part of the program."
Some growers, like In Grown, have already run into some minor issues, like preparing itself for a much higher demand than what reality reflects. Eventually, the industry could boast well over 100,000 patients, but until then they need to stop counting their chickens before they hatch or they'll be left with a fully catered party and only a few guests.
The University of Illinois has the first medical cannabis lab in the state and it's ready to start testing strains to make sure they're clear of any harmful microbes, pesticides, solvents and fungal poisons, according to the Associated Press.
The first dispensary that opened in Illinois is called The Harbory, which they opened at the beginning of October, although cannabis was not available yet. Eager to open their doors and start helping patients, they began — offering counseling, massage and acupuncture.
Approved patients have already started receiving their cards and will be able to start medicating very soon.
NEWLY GREEN NORTH CAROLINA, November 2015
Even though the South has been quite resistant to legalizing cannabis, even for medical reasons, the region is slowly opening up its arms to hemp. North Carolina just saw monumental support from assembly members in both the House and Senate with both passing Senate Bill 313. The new bill would make it legal to grow industrial hemp, and would also create an industrial hemp commission that would help manage growers across the state.
Technically, the term "industrial hemp" is defined as the plant cannabis sativa L., with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of no more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. In layman's terms, it contains very little of the psychoactive substance that will get consumers "high". Hemp's destiny reaches far beyond being a mind-altering substance. It is a valuable crop that, because of its strength, according to the National Hemp Association, can be used for composite materials that could be used to make anything from skateboard decks to car and stealth fighter bodies. The seed can also be used as food and is especially palatable in granola.
Many farmers that grew tobacco are now looking to hemp as a way to fill the void that declining tobacco sales have left. Not everyone is convinces that industrial hemp will help, especially because of its tarnished reputation as a derivative to cannabis, but as James Comer, Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner said about it, "It's not the replacement, but it's part of the solution."
Because of the looser federal laws that are set in place now, states have more freedom to decide whether or not they want to get involved with industrial hemp. Last month, when law enforcement groups backed off, it passed the legislature by a very large margin: 101 to 7 in the House and 42 to 2 in the Senate. North Carolina state Senator Stan Bingham remarked, "They had some very conservative members that I would've thought would've voted against this no matter what, but they didn't. They saw the job opportunities. There's just a lot of things that can be done with this and I hope we'll have a bright future."
Although the benefits might seem obvious, industrial hemp cultivation is not on everyone's radar. It's a huge opportunity that many still need to hop on board with. It's a high-yielding crop; it produces twice as much oil as peanuts, and nearly four times as much paper as trees. Even Levi's originally used hemp in their jeans to provide sturdy pockets for carrying gold.
Now the bill is sitting on Governor Pat McCrory's desk, waiting to be vetoed or blocked. If he doesn't take any action, it will be approved. This would then establish an Industrial Hemp Commission which would naturally oversee a hemp pilot program. That program would be tasked with granting licenses to cultivate industrial hemp and studying the immense benefits that come along with industrial hemp cultivation.
EXPLAINING SOME DETAILS IN MICHIGAN'S EDIBLE LAW, October 2015
Edibles in Michigan are tricky. In theory (and practice), they are better on your lungs, allow you to avoid smelling like a freshly smoked joint and have amore potent, long-lasting effect. The entire world of edibles, or edibles as they're warmly referred to by patients, is vast and can be quite confusing, especially to those who are new to the scene. Even some veteran takers stay away, because they know what works for them and have found a way to function and live without them. However, there are many patients that need to medicate, but need an alternative to smoking their cannabis medication.
That's where edibles and concentrates come in handy. Unfortunately, Michigan's law surrounding these applications of cannabis is incomplete and confusing. Since there is no clear, defining language to support their usage, patients are lost in a gray area that enables those who enforce the law to crack down unnecessarily hard on those who have no other way of medicating of simply prefer that method. It's all medicine; it's just a different delivery system. That's why advocates have been pressing for a long time to get everything cleared up and officially documented.
Now, what we're about to say might make you mad, or a bit worried. Even though you have your Michigan Medical Marihuana card — consuming, possessing, manufacturing or distributing cannabis resin or oil is a crime and most edibles are made with resin or oil. MCL 333.26424, section four states that you are protected, "…provided that the qualifying patient possesses an amount of marihuana that does not exceed 2.5 ounces of usable marihuana…" Usable marihuana, as defined in MCL 333.26423 (k) means, "the dried leaves and flowers of the marihuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof." Meaning, if you possess any amount of cannabis resin or oil, you can be prosecuted because Michigan does not include cannabis resin or oil in the definition of usable cannabis.
The silver lining? If an edible is made with dried leaves or flowers, it's legal. But even with silver linings, there are other obstacles to consider. Two and a half ounces or usable marihuana, when we're talking about flower, is quite a bit of cannabis—much more than one person can consume in a short period of time. But when we're addressing edibles, the entire edible is considered usable marihuana, if it's made with dried leaves/flowers. Keep in mind, a typical two-inch square brownie weighs around one ounce. That doesn't allow you to have many brownies at one time. And if you ever got caught, there's no way for the police to test if it was made with flowers vs. oil or resin, so they'll probably confiscate it and prosecute you anyway. There have been bills introduced to amend the verbiage in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, but so far nothing has passed.
EXCITEMENT FOR AUTISTIC PATIENTS IN MICHIGAN, September 2015
ADDENDUM: Between printing our September issue and before it hit the shelves, a huge decision was made in regard to adding Autism to the list of qualifying conditions in Michigan; a decision that was made way before it needed to be. Wasting no time at all, Mike Zimmer, Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), went against the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act Review Panel’s recommendation to add Autism as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. When the Panel showed it was in favor on July 31st, 2015, Zimmer was given the full authority in making a final decision — something he had until late October to mull over. But instead of taking the advice from the Panel, accredited physicians and first-hand accounts of families who have experienced dramatic improvements of autism symptoms while using medical cannabis to treat seizures and other qualifying conditions, he decided to nip this effort in the bud faster than you can say “politics.” Three years of effort by countless people, denied by one man in less than a month has left many people asking, “Why?” — especially the parents whose children are suffering more than they have to. This won’t be the end of their fight, but it was a definite setback. Time will tell if those who are fighting the good fight will be able to maintain their fervor, or if they will decide to relocate to a state that doesn’t have a definite qualifying list, like California, that simply requires a medical doctor believing that medical cannabis will help whatever condition their patient might have.
ORIGINAL PIECE: In July, under the News Nuggets section, we mentioned that Michigan state law might consider autism as a qualifying condition for patients who desire medical access to cannabis. Currently, the only conditions that Michigan considers as qualifiers for medical cannabis are cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and a few others. We talked about Lisa Smith and her son Noah, who has autism, and how they're helping to usher in a new era for children with autism. Since Noah qualifies for medical cannabis because of his epilepsy, he was in a unique position. Smith noticed her son benefiting in more ways than just treating the epilepsy. She elaborates, "Making the decision to use cannabis to treat Noah's autism and Dravet Syndrome was not a decision that was made in haste… Noah has made great strides over the past few months since he began using cannabis… We've managed to wean him off all but one medication used for seizure control and he no longer relies on behavior medications to control or stabilize his behaviors, as he no longer exhibits aggressive or self injurious tendencies."
There was an attempt in 2013 to get autism on the list as a qualifying condition, but it was thwarted by 7 out of 9 votes. In fact, post-traumatic stress disorder is the only condition that's been added to the list since Michigan voters approved cannabis for certain conditions in 2008. So they went at it again, this time providing hundreds of pages of research on cannabis and autism that weren't included in the 2013 proposal. It went to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act Review Panel on July 31st, 2015. This time the vote was 4-2, in favor of putting autism on the list. But success hasn't been achieved yet. It's still up to Mike Zimmer, Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. If he follows the state panel's recommendation, Michigan would become the first state to allow medical cannabis for children with severe autism. He has until late October to issue a judgment.
With families stepping up to the plate and admitting the dramatic improvements in their children's lives while treating them with medical cannabis, you'd think there wouldn't be such a struggle to put autism on the qualifying list. Especially in a state that's been pretty progressive with it's medical cannabis laws. But Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan's chief medical executive, who serves on the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act Panel, voted no. She's not convinced that there's enough research showing long-term effects from children consuming medical cannabis. "These things are things we do not know until we have enough experience with these medications in a controlled trial… I don't think we have those checks and balances."
Dr. David Crocker, who also serves on the panel, disagrees with Wells. "We have a pretty good check-and-balances system," he said, noting that two different doctors need to give their approval before any child can get a medical marihuana card from the state. Time will tell is Zimmer will allow children with severe autism to revel in the palliative relief of medical cannabis. Until then, there may be children that are suffering much more than they need to. If you want to see how you can help, check out the petition here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/add-autism-to-mi-medical
MICHIGAN'S EXPLORING FARMING MARKETS FOR CANNABIS, August 2015
In June, a new kind of dispensary opened up just outside of Flint, MI in a quiet town called Mt. Morris. The Herbal Centre (THC) is a non-profit, dedicated to providing a safe, legal gathering place with a farmer's market vibe to educate and connect patients with caregivers. While there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to Michigan's law, THC has been honest and transparent with local law enforcement and even works closely with them to ensure the safety for patients and caregivers alike. There's even a doctor on staff to help you transition into the world of medical cannabis.
The concept of farmer's markets for items other than the typical fresh goods isn't new. We've got upscale markets that offer semi-permanent booths, and we've got pop-up markets that allow vendors to sell their work and wares whenever they feel like signing up. Being so close to the largest historic market in the country, Eastern Market, in Detroit, it's natural for Michiganders to feel comfortable with the concept of a marketplace that offers competitive prices and varieties based on what time and what day you decide to go. So when THC opened up, it blew the door of opportunity wide open.
Chanda Ruff, co-owner of THC, didn't know all of the benefits of cannabis for a long time, like many people. Losing family members to cancer and suffering from a stroke, migraines and seizures herself, she reflects, "When medical marijuana came around, I was able to treat myself that way, instead of… you wouldn't believe the amount of pills I was on. I was an otherwise healthy person, but the side-effects from all the medication I was on was making me sick." It's stories like hers that resonate throughout the country and was part of the inspiration to open up shop and help others that may be suffering more than they have to.
What's great about a facility like The Herbal Centre is that it not only provides a fair marketplace for patients to meet caregivers, but it succeeds in giving a comfortable, safe environment for people to ask questions and get the life-changing help that they need. For the people that already know what they need and want, it serves a different purpose. It allows them to dig even further into their cannabis education by providing growing classes and legal classes.
INNER PARADISE: MICHIGAN ARTIST, LISA WAUD, AND HER FLOWER HOUSE, July 2015
Northern Michigan native, and current Detroit resident, Lisa Waud, never took her lush surroundings for granted growing up. Right after high school, she started at a company called Polly's Planting and Plucking. She admits, "…despite my first days revealing that I couldn't pick out a geranium from the rest of the flowers, I loved it from the first moment." Her current business venture, Pot & Box, is eight and continues to grow.
"There's a romantic perception of being in business for yourself. Some of it is true… and then there are the challenges—inconsistent finances and fresh product procurement—those have brought on some gray hairs, but luckily, gray is a hot color lately." It's our take that a sense of humor can do wonders for the longevity of a small business.
Her latest project, Flower House, makes you wish you thought of it first. Her vision "to fill an abandoned house in Detroit with fresh flowers and living plants for one exhibition weekend, and then responsibly deconstruct the house to make way for a flower farm" was inspired by the French artists Christo and Jeanne Claude and the 2012 Dior show.
The best thing about Flower House is that there's more to come. At a preview event in May, the interior was covered in beautiful arrangements, creating an intense juxtaposition of natural, organic beauty against the devastating decay of a home, amongst many homes in Detroit, that lost its purpose.
Viewing plants and flowers as a necessity of life, she recalls a past living situation. "For a year recently, I was living in an apartment where I did not have a garden. Looking back, I can see that I was unsettled. If you saw the new Mad Max movie, that was the whole premise—they were tirelessly searching for 'the green place'. Not that the Pot & Box flower truck is as bad ass as Furiosa's war rig, but I like to think I'm facilitating my clients' visions for their own green places."
With the sort of focus and attention Lisa gives to her clients, and her innate green thumb, naturally we envisioned her as the greatest Caregiver of all time. While she appreciates the versatility of cannabis and hemp to create medicine and textiles, she says, "despite the name Pot & Box, we don't grow cannabis. I think there are enough specialists that I can concentrate on ornamental flowers and plants." Her modesty is admirable and her focus envious.
When trying to define what it is that makes flowers and plants so beautiful, Lisa recalls, "Back when I worked at Polly's, we'd have what we'd call 'botanical exploration breaks' in the compost pile, cutting apart seed pods with our clippers. It both added to the wonder and to our understanding. Even now, I can be completely distracted by a particularly stunning ranunculus while I'm arranging wedding flowers.
Lisa's passion is infectious. Her gardening and design skills will make any aspiring green thumb yearn for her talent. If there's anything else that you can take away from her flower-filled dreams, it's that she does her best work when clients allow her to do what she does best. We may always have a particular vision of our own in mind, but allowing an artist to have the freedom to explore that vision in their own, unique way, will more often than not leave you with a sense of whimsy that you cannot force.
For more on Lisa and Pot & Box, visit potandbox.com
For more on the Flower House, visit theflower.house
HOW CANNABIS COULD HELP FIX MICHIGAN'S UNSAFE ROADS, June 2015
A recent proposal to fix unsafe roads failed in Michigan state polls. Basically, it was a plan to increase multiple fees and taxes in order to put money back into the roads, but what happened at the polls told the Michigan government that the voters aren't satisfied with that plan.
According to the official ballot, the purpose of Proposal 1 is "to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposed by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees." If the voters didn't want a wholesale tax on fuel, a raised sales tax, increased fees for hybrid and electric vehicles, or the domino effect of further legislation that this proposal would cause, then what do they want?
What Attorney Jeffrey Hank, Chairman of the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative (MILegalize), along with many other supporters in the medical mitten community, is suggesting is an initiative that "would direct profits from a reasonable excise tax on legalized marijuana to fund road repair, to support schools and add to financial resources to local communities … But more than that, the MILegalize proposal offers the best plan for small business generation and small businesses are the backbone of the state's economic growth. Cities keep control, cities set the rules and cities get the reward."
The MILegalize proposal offers 40 percent of legal cannabis tax revenue to schools, 40 percent to roads and 20 percent to local governments. At the same time, it enforces reasonable and warranted restrictions and protections. For instance, you'd have to be at least 21, unless you're a medical patient with a physician's recommendation. Before applying to a state agency, local communities have control over the zoning of all distribution and cultivation centers. For people that have been convicted of a non-violent, cannabis-related crime, it will provide a path to absolve them.
When Proposal 1 failed at the polls, it allowed a new discussion to take place. One that, instead of increasing taxes and fees, adapts to a plan that many in the Michigan cannabis community have ben focused on for a while now. The nation is already seeing the benefits of state-level, recreational legalization in states like Colorado and Washington—the first two to overcome cannabis prohibition. There are other efforts in Michigan to legalize recreational cannabis, but they've not been as public with their goals.
Available at Om of Medicine in Ann Arbor,MI.
At 100mg of THC per capsule, we were warned about taking it all at once, and we're here to relay that warning. With the Apollo-13 flower being a sativa-dominant hybrid, an entire capsule at the beginning of the day seems like a good idea, but it's so powerful, that if you're not used to that amount all at once, you'll soon find yourself needing to take a nap. During the warning, there was a reenactment of twisting the capsule apart and very carefully taking a sip, being certain not to take too much. But unless you're like Inspector #34 from that episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, be prepared to get your medicine on your fingers — when it should be in your tummy. These are perfect for patients who medicate heavily and need to avoid smelling like a Grateful Dead concert.
Baking Bad Cheesecake
Available at The Green Room in Detroit, MI.
A bit deceiving at first glance, when you finally unwrap this treat, the top half is cheesecake filling and the bottom half is the graham cracker goodness that contains 200mg of THC and 5 mg of CBD. So if you're only interested in the cheese part, you'll lose out on all the fun. At $15 a pop, this culinary delight doesn't mess around. We sliced it up, like the little mini-cheesecake it is, for more manageable doses. It should be refrigerated, so make sure to keep the packaging intact for nice storage. You could probably freeze it if you really wanted to cherish it, but make sure you pre-slice it first. If someone's throwing a party, let them know you're bringing the dessert!
Chocolate Almond Bar
Available at Michigan Chronic Relief in Detroit, MI.
Made at Hello Labs, these chocolate almond bars are packed with 100mg of THC. It's very easy to break apart, so you can measure your doses effectively. Each square ends up being 12.5 mg which is a great starter or daytime dose. If you know you need more, then by all means, enjoy. You may want to refrigerate it so it doesn't melt. We have no idea what the cocoa percentage is, but it's definitely a high quality chocolate. With little chunks of almond distributed throughout, it's easy on your teeth and provides nice little crunches. This treat allowed us to become very focused and efficient like Bobby Fischer playing speed chess.
Available at Mind Right in Detroit, MI.
There are a couple of layers to this culinary delight. Looking at it, we assumed it was just a cute little cake bite or truffle. But when it was cross-sectioned, we realized there was so much more than what met the eye. There's a peanut butter ball center that's been dipped in chocolate and then surrounded by raspberry cake infused with 70 mg of THC. If it sounds intense, it's because it is. It's like a gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but with chocolate and cake involved. If we weren't told it was an edible, we wouldn't know, because the symphony of flavors do a great job of masking. Pick this one up and share it with your bff or keep it to yourself, but don't test your limits on such a beautiful specimen. Take it easy and treat yourself.
Available at Ann Arbor WELLNESS Collective in Ann Arbor, MI.
If you haven't "waked and baked" with a spoonful of this honey, you're missing out. We thought their peanut butter was good, but this really takes it to the next level. Especially if you have a cup of tea or coffee in the morning and like a little sweetener. Another example of "I wish I thought of this!" The green taste is barely there, and the honey is smooth and bright — just the way it should be. The honey itself is actually locally sourced from right here in Michigan. The entire $30 jar has 300mg of THC and it's made with full extract cannabis oil (Simpson oil) Nothing else makes you feel more like a hefty, happy Pooh-bear than eating up every last drop.
Platinum OG Kush
Available at Original Green Health Center in Detroit, MI.
There's something seductive about these crystals. At 27.27% THC, it makes all your nerve ends tingle. A full on indica that carries a fresh citrus scent of lemon, orange and grapefruit. All of a sudden you're transported into a new state of being. Wiggling is natural, because of this groovy all-body high. Having an annoying song stuck in your head turns into a personal mini dance party and sing-a-long. You might actually become a philosopher. You'll at least have some musings about the universe and all that time-space continuum stuff. It's a great strain for anxiety, insomnia, and pondering about life.
San Fernando Valley OG Kush
Available at The Barn in Barton, MI.
Now this is something for the cannoisseurs. Lemon seems to overwhelm this strain, but the piney after-notes keep it grounded. At 70/30 indica-dominant and 19.85% THC, it's got a healthy dose of trichomes and an earthy smell when first uncapped. If you appreciate fresh, sticky buds that leave your fingers smelling like you just squeezed lemonade, then this flower is where it's at. grind it and pack it and it falls right into place when you roll it up, like it understands its destiny. When they crossed San Fernando Valley OG with an Afghani father, they gave us something that would always impress a guest, but get ready to relax. It's an impressive smoke taste-wise, head-wise and body-wise. This one truly hits the trifecta.
Available at Herbal Solutions in Ypsilanti, MI.
Make sure the battery is charged in your pen, or dab this on a rig, because if your pen only has enough battery to vaporize a small hit, you'll like the way you feel, but there is so much potential to the Black Widow experience! If you're a veteran dabber, your typical hits will be maximized by its potency. Processed by house maker, Loyalty Extracts, it has a mild, fruity taste. Sativa-dominant at 80/20 means an uplifting, euphoric buzz that's great for creativity and enjoying life. Hitting this one before doing something you don't really want to do will definitely help you through it. Doing it before something you actually want to do creates an entirely new level of pleasure.
Gorilla Glue #4
Available at The Green Room in Grosse Pointe, MI.
This is a 50/50 hybrid that causes couch-lock and munchies. Doing things is hard, so have something prepared ahead of time. It's one of those situations where you might need a snack while you prepare another snack. Make sure you're either alone of around people that won't judge you, because when you're not shoveling food into your mouth, you'll have a permanent deer-in-headlights look and a slight drool if you're not careful. If you want make sure you keep your cool, then it's okay to just take one or two hits. Don't be a hero; you can take your time with it. But, if you want to achieve full face-melt status, just keep going, turn the music up and lose yourself.
Sunset Sherbet Cookie
Available at House of Dank 313 in Detroit, MI.
These beautifully dark, dense buds are a 50/50 hybrid that clocks in around 23% THC. They're blessed with long hairs that tickle your nose when you break it apart and sniff it. Sticky and fresh, they'll leave your fingertips feeling oily. It's great on pain and even better on helping you achieve full space cadet status. Things might distract you easily, but just attribute that to your new and improved sense of wuwei (literally, without effort; basically, going with the flow). You're given a sense of awareness and calmness that's like an aftertaste of understanding your own consciousness. Great for chronic pain and insomnia.