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Medical marijuana: beyond smoke and brownies

Political controversy and U.S. Supreme Court lawsuits over retail recreational marijuana in Colorado have taken the focus off medicinal cannabis, legalized in Colorado in 2000. Recreational marijuana can be purchased without the additional step of a doctor’s authorization. Despite the increasing ease and availability, the number of registered medical marijuana patients has grown almost 10 percent since Amendment 64 passed.Cannabis for the psychoactive effects can be consumed by inhaling and eating. Patients can get other medical benefits from marijuana and the cannabinoid chemicals in the plant by using topical infused products such as eye drops and skin salves.ìTopicals are fantastic for inflammation reduction; and, if they are formulated correctly, they can take the place of many pain medications and even prevent surgeries,î said Rebecca Holley, founder of Therapy in a Bottle in California. She said her company makes salves, massage oils, bath soaks and sugar scrubs with and without cannabis infusion.Holly said her target market, such as people over 40, state workers and law enforcement personnel, are not going to walk into dispensaries. ìWe needed a way to accommodate them and bring non-believers through the back door of the cannabis world, using hemp seed oil and other botanicals; and then giving them the option of something cannabis-infused.îThe Medical Marijuana Registry Program Update, published monthly by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, reports that about 1 percent of Colorado medical marijuana cards are issued for glaucoma, 4 percent for cancer and the side effects of cancer treatments, 1 percent for HIV/AIDS and 2 percent for seizures. Ninety-four percent of medical cards were issued for severe pain. Patients can report more than one condition on their application.Tetrahydrocannabinol, usually referred to as THC, is the primary psychoactive part of marijuana products. Cannabidol, or CBD, has apparent medical benefits without the side effect of creating a pot high in the patient. High-CBD strains of marijuana have been developed to cater to the medicinal market.ìMany recreational outlets in Colorado and Washington are finding adult consumers prefer infused products, edibles and tinctures because it does not necessitate harming their lungs,î said Mitchell Stern, president of Burning Bush Nurseries, a marijuana grow operation in California that caters to medical dispensaries. ìThe level of ingenuity that we see among CBD-infused-products rivals the creativity of THC-infused products, both in marketing and substance. At a recent trade show, I received a kit of three different tincture sprays, all made with CBD-rich plant material so as not to get the user high.îThe federal Controlled Substances Act continues to classify marijuana as a drug with ìno currently accepted medical use.î The medical dispensary industry continues to try to find legal means to scientifically prove any benefit to medical marijuana. In December, the Colorado Board of Health approved $8.4 million for grants over five years to research the medical impacts of cannabis products.If this upcoming research is able to offer scientific backup for pro-legalization activists’ claims of health benefits, high CBD strains and infused products could become more accessible and culturally acceptable to more people and health organizations. Stern said, ìAs more and more adults become less concerned with the social stigma surrounding cannabis, I think more and more people will realize that there are better treatment options available that don’t include the use of prescription drugs that bring with them a myriad of side effects.î

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