This is not your grand-hippie’s PotCon. There are no special brownies at the concession stand. There’s a shocking lack of tie-dye anything. Devices on display are not of the bowl and bong variety. Nobody smells like patchouli, and nobody seems stoned.
This is a convention for the new pot economy and it’s very scientific, very technical.
The Cannabis Science Conference is holding its first-ever East Coast event at the Baltimore Convention Center through April 10. The world’s largest and most technical cannabis science expo brings together industry experts, manufacturers, scientists, medical practitioners, policymakers and others in order to improve cannabis science.
This year’s keynote speakers are TV personality and Baltimore native Montel Williams (founder of Lenitiv Scientific, a hemp-derived CBD brand); Ricki Lake (executive producer of the documentary”Weed the People”); and Abby Epstein (director of “Weed the People”).
(We tried to stick around to hear Lake and Epstein, but their plane was running late and we had to get back to the office to report our findings to you.)
Some of the highlights of the three-day event include April 8th’s “Canna Boot Camp,” a full-day interactive workshop that covered everything from cultivation to pre-processing to analytical testing to extraction; lectures on “A Pharmacists’ Journey from Cannabis Skeptic to Advocate,” “Cannabis Nutrition & Fertilization” and much more. There are also round table and panel discussions on “Controlling the Environment,” “Pediatric Cannabis” and “Athletes for Cannabis.”
Jmore stopped by the conference on the afternoon of April 9 to check out the exhibition area of more than 100 vendors pushing everything from cultivation equipment to labels for packaging. A lot of the machinery on display – which can run in the multi-hundreds of thousands of dollars — was completely foreign to us. Some of it looked like suped-up EZ Bake Ovens (pun intended?) or massive 3-D printer/X-ray machine/microwave contraptions. This is definitely an event for those in the know. (We are not in the know.)
Among the vendors were Maryland’s own Curio Wellness, MaryJane of Maryland magazine, Maryland NORML and Minority Cannabis Business Association. Veterans Ending the Stigma and Veterans Initiative 22 were also on hand, showing exactly how far the industry has come.
We decided to check out a few of the lectures in the Medical Track because we thought those would be the most useful to us (we’re not likely to start a farm anytime soon). Most of the information was very insider, but we did manage to learn some things in “Cannabis for Pain Management” and “Opiate Use Reduction, A Cannabinoid Primer for Medical Professionals and Medical Cannabis for Older Adults.” (We’re just going to go ahead and apologize right now for the multiple uses of the word “cannabinoid.” It seems to be the medical term of choice. Nobody’s running around talking about pot, marijuana or weed.)
In “Cannabis for Pain Management,” Dr. Jordan Tishler, CEO of inhaleMD, presented some evidence on how and why cannabis can be used to treat pain. Tishler mentioned that with medical cannabis, you can sidestep some of the baggage that comes with using opioids. He suggested that cannabinoids can also be used to wean patients off of opioids.
He went through some of the routes of administration, including smoking, vaporizing and eating, and said that both smoking and vaporizing provide a rapid onset so you’ll feel better quicker than by other means.
“Inhalation is a wonderful approach,” Tishler said, while warning that smoking is probably not great for the lungs. The quick action and modest duration of inhalation is good for something like a migraine.
Edibles take longer to work, but last longer, Tishler said. “I don’t recommend cookies to my patients,” he said. “The average older American is overweight or diabetic … so I’m not suggesting, ‘Take two cookies and call me in the morning.’”
Darnit. He concedes that at about 10 calories each, gummies are probably OK. Edibles are good for something like 24/7 debilitating back pain. Tishler did note that it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. “They’re complementary. Depends on the circumstances, situation and illness. Remember the whole patient.”
On the subject of dosing, Tishler said it’s “hugely important. There is a sweet spot and we want to hit that sweet spot. People tend to land at 10-15 milligrams. Low doses are very effective. … Don’t tell grandma to go do bong hits.”
Next up was “A Cannabinoid Primer for Medical Professionals” with Dr. Theodore Search of Gofire. He works to make sure medical professionals understand the roles cannabinoids can play in 21st-century health and wellness.
Search suggested that cannabis can be adjunct therapy added on to existing medications. He said among the candidates for cannabinoid intervention are chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, depression, epilepsy, cancer, ADHD, fibromyalgia, arthritis and insomnia.
A scientist, pharmacist and researcher, Search said when he first got into the field, “what I found was nothing less than astonishing. I’m talking daily miracles.” The examples he provided were vets dealing with PTSD and cancer patients being allowed to “go through treatment with dignity.” His approach to dosing is to “start low, go slow” and, like Tishler, he also expressed a concern about some edible products and smoking.
The last lecture of the afternoon that we attended was on “Medical Cannabis for Older Adults” with Dr. Dustin Sulak, co-founder of Healer. This was the real eye-opener of the day. Did you know that cannabis is the third most used drug by older adults? (Alcohol and tobacco are first and second.) Sulak asked everyone in the room to raise their hands if they know someone 65-plus who is currently using medical cannabis or would like to be. About 75 percent of the hands in that room went up without hesitation.
Sulak spoke about the fact that medical cannabis offers relief for many common geriatric conditions and doesn’t just relieve symptoms, but can actually promote health. According to Sulak, medical cannabis can assist older adults with sleep disturbances, chronic pains, dementia and strokes. “By allowing elders to use cannabis, they’re staying fit and staying in the workforce longer.”
Additionally, a lot of drugs that are dangerous or inappropriate for older adults are being replaced by cannabis, and in states with medical marijuana laws, Medicaid prescriptions are decreasing, which is saving everyone – the government included — a lot of money.
Two things to watch out for if you are elderly and taking medical cannabis: there’s a fall risk and some reports of dry mouth. Sulak prescribes an herb or lozenges that can help with the dry mouth.
There’s also a “side benefit” to all this, Sulak said. “Euphoria!” In one case study he presented of a 90-year-old woman, she was reported as giggling and having fits of laughter. “This is a good thing,” Sulak said. Someone, sign us up.
It only took one afternoon at the conference, but we have officially drunk the Kool-Aid (or tasted the tincture?). After one too many bong hits in our youth, we awoke decades later in the purple haze to discover that an entire industry had passed us by. Talk about a buzz-kill. Drop what you’re doing right now and find a way into the Cannabis Science/Medical Marijuana/Something else-related career path.
The future is now.