Ask Away Blog: Medical Marijuana 101 | My Experience

Medical Marijuana 101 | My Experience

Monday, September 23, 2019

Medical Marijuana 101 | My Experience

Ahhh, my favorite topic. Natural medicine.  Now before you write this off as someone trying to preach, just know that's not what this post is.  Yes, I have recently become an approved patient with access to medical marijuana.  But what I learned was the medicinal side to marijuana is something many people don't understand and I can't blame them.  Many of us are still learning and at this point it's patients educating patients.  

So today's post is going to be about medical marijuana.  Why to use it and what it does, how to use it, how to get access to it (in Pennsylvania), and how it has helped me.   I spent weeks researching and learning about the medicinal qualities of different strains, and what actually makes them work.   I can tell you that even if you have no plans to ever try marijuana (medicinal or otherwise), this post is SUPER informative.  



Why medical marijuana?
Humans have been using cannabis since the beginning of time.  Just like other herbs, flowers, and plants, it has been used to help alleviate pain and ease the mind. I learned in a recent book I read, A Woman's Guide to Cannabis by Nikki Furrer, that our bodies actually have an endocannabinoid system in them with receptors.  The medicinal compounds of marijuana move through our bloodstream and lock into the different CB receptors in our body.  The endocannabinoid system helps maintain homeostasis through our entire body and when everything is balanced it's all working efficiently.  Now, disease and illness are a result of an imbalance in the body and our endo system recognized the imbalance and will try to correct it.  Some even say that the cannabinoid deficiency is what causes the issues in the first place. 

What does medical marijuana do? 
Well, that's a long answer but I can simplify it and summarize it as best I can for you.  It can help with stress, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, pain, and lots more.   

Types and Strains
So even if you  have tons of street knowledge with marijuana, you will likely be overwhelmed AF when you first go to a dispensary.  It's like a foreign language trying to understand the ingredients and names. What's a kush? What's a terpene?  Why does this strain make me tired and hungry? What strain can give me energy with little high? 

Okay, so I'm going to break it down for you as easily as I possibly can, based on what I've learned through my own research and experience. 

First - there are 3 types of marijuana.  
Indicas, Sativas, and Hybrids. 
From WiseToast

Indicas (in da couch) are good for relaxing, sedating yourself for sleep, and calming yourself.  They will make you tired and some can even make you feel so lazy you don't want to move to get the remote from 2 feet away.  Indicas give many people the munchies. 

Sativas are good for the opposite - they are known to energize you, motivate you, give you a clear head, good mood, mental focus, and some have appetite suppressants in them. 

Hybrids are a mix of both.  It's the best properties of each type combined into one. Some lean more towards the Sativa side and some lean more towards the Indica side. 


This is Blue Dream, a fan favorite by many.  It gives energy and mental boost without any lazy side effects.  It's a hybrid that is dominant on the Sativa side. 


Next, there are different strains. 
Strains are things like OG Kush, Blue Dream, and Pineapple Express.  It's the name of the strain or "breed" as some think of it.  There's an app called Leafly that is invaluable when it comes to looking up information on strains. You can see reviews from people on each strain. Some strains are bred with others to create new strains and Leafly also tells you the parent strains. 
From Leafly.com

In each strain are Terpenes...
Terpenes can determine the affects and benefits of a strain which is why medicinal marijuana contains a label on each package that explains how much of which terpenes are inside. 
From Bloom City Club

When I first learned about all this I felt so stupid like I knew nothing my whole life.  I am not alone. Even people that have been "street users" for decades had no clue about the medical side of marijuana.  While some admit they felt healthier and better when using marijuana, others said their generation just liked it to get high and they now realize they must have been using a strain that made them dopey and tired.  

Also inside each strain are cannabinoids...
From SonicTestLabs.com

Each cannibinoid has different benefits like Terpenes do. These are also listed on the label.  

It's recommended to keep a medical marijuana journal when you become a certified patient so you can log the strains you try, the ingredients in them, and how they make you feel. 


How To Use It
Laws differ in every state so some forms of ingesting or using medical marijuana differ but generally you can vape the oil, vape the flower, use a tincture (oral drops), or take capsules.  Some states (not Pennsylvania) allow edibles (gummies, baked goods, etc.) and smoking the flower.  Patients get to choose what form works best for them and what they feel most comfortable with. 

How To Get Access to Medical Marijuana
So I live in Pennsylvania and if you live anywhere near Central PA I can definitely help you get an appointment.  A dear friend of mine is the scheduler for a patient advocate office.  Shoot me an email with any questions and I can connect you with her.  In order to become a patient, you need to get have one of the qualifying conditions listed on the PA Medical Marijuana Program website.  You'll need a copy of your records that show your diagnosis.  Most doctor's offices have patient portals where you can log on yourself and get access to it. 

Next, you'll need to get an appointment with a doctor that's certified on the PA MMJ website to recommend MMJ as your treatment.  Personally, I tried to call different doctor's offices and heard back from no one which is likely because they're already swamped with their existing patients.  That's why patient advocate groups are great because they basically run clinics where doctors that are approved on the PA site dedicate their time to being at the clinic on certain days to do nothing but certify eligible patients.  Once you're certified you pay the DOH for your card and when it comes in the mail you can head to a dispensary. 

My Experience
So I couldn't believe how smooth the process went for me personally.  I made an appointment at a clinic, and when the day came I went right in, paid for my appointment, saw the doctor and after an evaluation and discussion was certified, and then paid for my card.  Within 4 days my card was in my mailbox.  I went to the dispensary within a day or 2 and got a consultation with the pharmacist.  They explained the medicinal side and the terpenes and as I mentioned earlier, I felt so overwhelmed.  But everyone was SO helpful and friendly at the dispensary.  And even in the Cardholder Facebook groups, I was embarrassed but everyone was so helpful and no one makes fun of anyone for being such a noob.   

You know what else I noticed? When in the waiting room at the dispensary, each time I go, there's always someone that looks totally confused.  They vocalize their fear and confusion and suddenly everyone else in the room tries to help them and explain things.  At one point I saw people of all ages and genders and backgrounds discussing options that worked for them and why they might work for others.  It's amazing and it really does bring people together. 

It's completely absurd to me that anyone ever decided to outlaw a medicinal plant.  Seriously.  We grow cone flower, which is used to make Echinacea which we take for our immune system.  We balance ourselves, right? Well, that's what people in need of cannabis do with it as their medicine.  

I hope that this post has helped you understand the unraveling world of cannabis as medicine.  If you have any experience with this, please feel free to share in the comments below! 



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