Governors From Five States Sign Bills Into Law Creating Or Expanding Medical Cannabis Programs

This is a good week to be a pen manufacturer, as governors across the United States of America are running their pens dry signing new cannabis legislation into law. There is no doubting the momentum of the medical cannabis movement with these successful results seen across the country. Governors from Vermont, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Ohio signed legislation into law this week, which either creates or expands their state’s medical cannabis program. These political leaders are surely following the hearts and minds of their voting base, as is reflected in recent polling that “89 percent [are] in favor of allowing adults to legally use medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor.” Legislation seems to be finally catching up to voters! Now the Federal Government needs to get itself moving, as Ohio’s new medical cannabis program makes it 25 out of 50 (26 out of 51 if you count Washington D.C.) which have a medical cannabis program. This is literally the moment the scales tip the opposite direction, and the majority of our great country has access to medical cannabis.

The Green Mountain State’s Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law which expands the state’s already existing medical cannabis program. Shumlin noted the importance of mitigating Vermont’s opioid epidemic as a main influencing factor in his decision. The new law adds chronic pain, glaucoma and hospice care patients to the list of approved patients. Shumlin made some of the highest pain pill consuming patients eligible for the program. These patients will now have access to a medicine which will relieve their pain without the threat of severe addiction. These new changes take effect immediately.

The Centennial State’s Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law which requires all Colorado schools to allow students who are also medical cannabis patients to medicate on school property. The law, know as “Jack’s Law”, allows that the use of medical cannabis in schools may be under strict conditions. The law was named after a student, named Jack Splitt, who had his medication seized while at school. Without his medication he was unable to mitigate his seizure disorder, and was unable to attend school. His mother testified how important it is for Jack, as it is for all kids, to attend school for both social and intellectual benefits. It is expected that schools will have their policies updated prior to the start of the next school year.

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The Constitution State’s Governor Dannel P. Mallory signed a bill into law which opens access to Connecticut’s medical cannabis program to patients younger than 18 years of age. The patients must have one of five conditions: “a terminal illness requiring end-of-life care; cystic fibrosis; cerebral palsy; severe epilepsy or uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder; or an irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity.” Furthemore the underage patients will need permission to use medical cannabis from a parent or guardian along with two separate physicians. Smoking, vaporization, or any inhalation of medical cannabis is expressly forbidden by under 18 patients by the law. This would leave patients with topicals, tinctures, capsules, or edibles as their options of choice. This new law goes into effect on October 1st.

The Pelican State’s Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law which removes criminal penalties for patients who use medical cannabis legally. Prior to this move legal patients and distributors were technically still able to be prosecuted under state law for possession of cannabis, even though it was obtained with the permission of the state itself. Clearly, Louisiana had the metaphorical cart before the horse on this one. The new law protects both patients, registered caregivers, and the parents of a minor from prosecution for illegal possession of cannabis. The state’s correction of this nuance in the interaction of laws is a testament to their commitment to make a program which is viable. The new law goes into effect on August 1st.

The Buckeye State’s Governor John Kasich signed a bill into law creating a brand new medical cannabis program for Ohio. Ohio is officially the 25th state to enact some form of legislation to allow legal access to medical cannabis. The law specifically bans any smoking of any form of cannabis, but does allow the sale of flower. There has not been any explanation on how the state will enforce the ban on smoking. The law allows local cities and municipalities to ban cannabis business, so it will be interesting to see which parts of the state will have local access to medical cannabis. Similar to other states employers will still be able to retain a “drug-free” workplace, and terminate employees who are legal medical cannabis patients. The state will also forbid home growing, a measure which was included in a voter sponsored initiative which has since been suspended. The program will include some 23 conditions. Doctors in the state will be required to complete training prior to being authorized by the state to recommend patients medical cannabis, and will also be required to attend continuing education courses on cannabis. Quite interestingly, the law specifically caps THC percentages at 35% for flower, and 75% for concentrates. The Ohio Patient Network does a great job of summarizing all the details of the new program. The new law goes into effect on September 6, 2016, but it is expected to take about two years until medical cannabis is in the hands of patients.

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Finally, the Land of Lincoln, or the Prairie State to some, is about to earn its place as number six on this list. Governor Bruce Rauner is poised to sign a bill into law which both expands and extends the Illinois medical cannabis pilot program. The program is to be expanded two additional years, and PTSD and terminal illness will be added to the list of approved conditions for medical cannabis. One of the most important changes to the current law is regarding how doctors interact with the program. Doctors will no longer have to recommend cannabis in conjunction with the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, but will simply certify that there is a bona-fide Doctor-Patient relationship and that the patient has a qualifying condition. Please be sure to contact the Governor directly and remind him to make good on his word and sign this bill into law! You can even offer to lend him one of your pens if his has run out of ink!

Do you think the Federal Government should take note of the fact that half the nation’s states now have legal access to medical cannabis, and remove cannabis from the schedule one category? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook!

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Concentrates 101

Illinois medical cannabis patients have a wealth of ingestion options available to them via legal dispensaries. So many options in fact, that at times it may feel overwhelming, a fact that is especially true in the concentrates category more than any other. Cannabis concentrates come in a rainbow of different styles, consistencies, and colors. This blog post is intended to help you have the knowledge you need to navigate the field, and select the concentrate best for you!

In the simplest explanation, a cannabis concentrate is a collection of the oil which is extracted from the plant material. This oil is mostly found on the surface of the leaves and buds in the form of sticky bulbous resinous trichomes. Any variations in the source material, extraction process, or post-extraction processing will result in a slightly different end product. The oil can be unlocked from the plant via various extraction methods, known by two main types; solvent-based vs solvent-free. Solvents can be used to dissolve and carry the oil from the plant material, but must then be removed to ensure a safe and healthy product. Any alcohol or hydrocarbon can be used to strip the oil from the plant, along with supercritical CO2. A process called winterization is then used to remove additional components removed from the plant during the extraction process, like waxes, lipids, and chlorophyll. Solvent-free methods utilize mechanical and physical techniques to remove, separate, and capture the resinous trichomes from the plant material.

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Concentrates can be consumed in a number of different ways, but ideally should be vaporized not combusted. The scientific difference between those two is a matter of specific temperatures. Simply put, combustion is burning, and vaporization is a phase change from solid or liquid to gas. When water evaporates it is changing from a liquid to a gas, and this phenomenon is similar to what happens with cannabis oil, but just at a higher temperature than room temperature. The closer the temperature to combustion, the more flavor that will be lost and the more likely it will be that you are combusting the oil and not vaporizing. Concentrates can be paired with typical flower, but some efficiency may be lost with this pairing. Simply placing the concentrate on top of a bowl or inside a joint will work as the heat from the burning flower will work to vaporize the oil nearby. Be wary as any of the concentrate which is not vaporized by the heat, for example which runs down into a glass pipe when heated or wafts away into the air, will be lost product. Typically concentrates are consumed using a vaporizer or dabber, both of which come in many different shapes and sizes. Even in the case of dabbing, be sure to mind your temperatures to ensure you are vaporizing and not combusting your concentrates.

Let’s start by focusing the solvent-free methods first! Most notably in this category would be kief, discussed in-depth in a previous blog post here. Kief is basically resin powder, or the collection of resinous trichomes. They can be collected by shaking cannabis trim or buds over a series of silk screens, which have smaller and smaller sized holes at the micron level and only allow trichomes to fall through while stopping other plant material. This variation is typically of power-like consistency, and is known as dry-sift kief. This same phenomena is what happens inside your grinder, resulting in the powder you find in the catch at the bottom. Trim and buds can also be frozen and washed with water and ice in containers, draining the results through successive bags with smaller and smaller holes sized at the micron level. The results are similar to dry sift, but is paste like in consistency and known as bubble hash. The name refers to the results when burning this concentrate, as it will characteristically melt and bubble when heated. Both variations of kief are similar, but will be different in potency, taste, and consistency. Medical patients who are particularly sensitive to the idea of solvents can choose kief as their concentrate of choice. Both dry and wet kief can be combined with flower to boost medicating power. Dry sift kief can be dabbed, but the results will be less than stellar, so choose the other keif concentrate option (bubble hash) if you are going to be dabbing. If you are typical flower consumer, sprinkling kief on top is a quick and easy way to increase your cannabinoid intake! Kief can be pressed and heated, transforming it into rosin. Rosin is more suited for dabbing applications than kief.

Now let’s move onto the concentrates extracted using solvents. There are many names for the varieties of wax found on the market. Solvent extraction is a powerful means to strip the oily essence from the cannabis plant. The characteristics of the resulting oil will be highly influenced by what specific solvent is used. Some manufactures of cannabis concentrates have gone so far as to create unique and proprietary blends of solvents, so that they have the unique path to their branded concentrate. The choice of solvent is one of the main determining factors which dictates the end result. After the oil has been extracted, it must be post-processed to ensure a safe and healthy product. This post-processing is the second most important factor which will dictate the end result. Special pressurized ovens, called vacuum ovens, are used to modify the pressure while heating the oil to remove any residual solvent locked inside the concentrate. By placing the concentrate into a vacuum the boiling point can be lowered, so the solvent can be made to boil at a lower temperature. Keeping the extract at a lower temperature will prevent degradation of cannabinoids due to heat, and in the case of making shatters prevent decarboxylization. Different mechanical treatments can be used in the post-processing phase, resulting in an end product which can vary from oily to buttery in consistency.

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You can take a deeper dive into the chemistry and material science theories behind the difference between a wax and shatter by clicking here. Winterization is also part of the post-processing, removing contaminants and further refining and altering the oil in taste, texture, and consistency. There can also be variations in the choice of starting product from dried buds, various forms of trim, fresh moist buds, and even fresh frozen buds. When cannabis is frozen fresh and then run through the extraction process, a concentrate called live resin is produced. Live resin is known for being especially flavorful and one of the best extraction methods of capturing the essence of the plants unique smells and flavors. With solvent based extractions the most common solvent used is butane, and is abbreviated many places as BHO, short for butane hash oil. The solvent most commonly thought of as the best to use is supercritical CO2, which is CO2 gas super-pressurized to its supercritical point. At this special point the CO2 flows through the plant matter like a gas but dissolves oil from the plant like a liquid. This method can be fine tuned to extract all or parts of the plant’s chemical makeup.

Concentrates are available in a wide variety. When selecting a concentrate to try, keep several things in mind when you are making your decision. First, look for a strain you prefer and try to find a concentrate of your ideal strain. Second, decide if flavor or potency is more important to you in a concentrate product. Finally, look for a concentrate of your desired strain in the form which accentuates either flavor, (like live resin) potency, (like shatter) or range in both flavor and potency (like a wax or budder). Cresco Labs has a wide variety of concentrates available now. Please click here and find the dispensary nearest to you!

What is your ideal concentrate? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook!

Here is a breakdown of the concentrates in summary:

  • Solvent-free
    • Kief (Dry sift) (Trichomes)
      • Process: The sparkly coating of cannabis or resin powder in the form of resin filled trichomes, is broken off and filtered through screens and collected. Exactly the same powder that  you find in the bottom of your grinder.
      • Physical Description: A powder-like substance
      • Flavor & Taste: Carries the flavor essence of the plant well
      • Potency: 20%-60%
      • Overall: A great solvent-free concentrate which is easy to pair with flower to enhance both flavor and cannabinoid intake. Will burn quickly and smolder when ignited. Not good for dabbing.
    • Bubble hash
      • Process: Cannabis is frozen (can be dry) and placed into buckets with ice water. The mixture is agitated and drained through screen filter bags and similar to dry sift the resinous trichomes are broken off and collected.
      • Physical Description: A hash-like granular paste
      • Flavor & Taste: Slightly less potent in flavor and taste than dry sift kief as some smell and flavors will be washed away.
      • Potency: 50%-80%
      • Overall: A great solvent-free concentrate which can be paired with flower or a hash bowl. Will burn quickly and smolder when ignited. Not good for dabbing.
    • Rosin
      • Process: Either kief or dried cannabis is wrapped in wax parchment paper and simultaneously pressed and heated.
      • Physical Description: Semi-clear oil with tacky consistency
      • Flavor & Taste: Known to capture smells and flavors well
      • Potency: 50%-70%
      • Overall: A great solvent-free concentrate which can be used in a vaporizer pen or dabbed. Kief can be transformed into a dabbable substance as rosin.
  • Solvent-based
    • Wax
      • Process: Cannabis is placed into a vessel and a solvent is passed through. The solvent is allowed to evaporate, and only the oily essence of the plant remains. Further processing is necessary to purge the substance of its solvent, and winterization is done to remove unwanted chemicals extracted from the plant like chlorophyll, waxes, and lipids.
      • Physical Description: Great variation influenced by solvent and post processing choices. Generally oily to paste-like, can be smooth or granular.
      • Flavor & Taste: Potent flavor, bordering on harsh
      • Potency: 60%-90%
      • Overall: Great go-to concentrate which can be paired with flower, a vaporizer, or dabbed.
    • Shatter
      • Process: Specially treated extract, allowed to cool without being agitated, and kept at lower temperatures throughout processing. Terpenes and moisture are removed to increase the percentage by weight of cannabinoids.
      • Physical Description: Hard glass-like low moisture oil. Can be tacky, or solid like hard candy.
      • Flavor & Taste: Harsh flavor, thick smoke, can be overwhelming
      • Potency: 80%-95%
      • Overall: Extremely potent concentrate not for the inexperienced.
    • Budder
      • Process: Wax which is agitated mechanically or by hand, causing a molecular change in the substance altering its physical characteristics to be more wax-like than oil-like.
      • Physical Description: Butter like paste which is creamy smooth
      • Flavor & Taste: Flavorful
      • Potency: 60%-90%
      • Overall: Great concentrate which can be paired with flower, a vaporizer, or dabbed which has more personality and unique characteristics than unprocessed wax concentrate.
    • Live resin
      • Process: The same extraction process is run using fresh frozen cannabis.
      • Physical Description: Oily and colorful
      • Flavor & Taste: Super rich flavor, smooth taste, not overwhelming
      • Potency: 65%-95%
      • Overall: Most flavor rich of all the concentrates. Great concentrate which can be paired with flower, a vaporizer, or dabbed.

 

Posted In: Science

Why A High THC Percentage Does Not Matter…

Beautiful music is the summation and interaction of all the separate pieces of a musical group; the singers who tell the story through words for your mind, the band who expresses the emotional energy through sound for your ears, the stage crew who frames the group on the stage for your eyes, and the promotion group who gets the people in the seats in the first pace. Some bands may be known by their venerable rock star, like THC is for cannabis, but that rockstar would not be who they are without the backing and support of the entire band and crew. Imagine a rockstar belting a tune for five or so minutes with no backup singers, no musical instruments, on a bare dark stage. It would not be the same show! The effect that cannabis has on an individual is the summation and combined interaction of all the separate cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid chemicals found in the plant. This interaction of all the chemicals in cannabis with the human body is known as the entourage effect.

If cannabis was a musical act, THC would be the lead singer, and well known rockstar of the plant. THC’s backup singers would include other cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, CBN, and CBG. The band’s group of musicians would be rounded out with an eighty or so member sized symphony orchestra of cannabinoid chemicals, which produce a sound unique to each plant’s cannabinoid profile. The orchestra would be supported by the stage crew, which in cannabis would be the many terpenes and flavonoids. According to Whaxy, terpenes and flavonoids are “the molecules that provide cannabis with its aroma and flavor.” Along with enhancing the experience of cannabis, some of these flavor and smell chemicals can also interact directly with the endocannabinoid system themselves, acting like pickup musicians and jumping in to play a song or two with the orchestra. When not playing special sets onstage, the terpene and flavonoid crew would be responsible for the alluring clean and fresh air found in the auditorium, along with a ornate stage which frames the presentation of the musicians beautifully.

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Let’s take a quick detour for a history lesson about “pharmaceutical” cannabis! Way back in 1985 the Federal government financially backed and approved a drug, mostly known as Marinol, as a legal alternative to real cannabis. Marinol is 100% synthetic THC, and it was set as a schedule III drug when approved. It is viciously ironic for the government to quarantine cannabis from the public and medical communities as a schedule I drug, and then double-classify THC as a schedule III drug, which can be legally prescribed by doctors with appropriate and acknowledged medical use by the public. Marinol went on to be a lackluster failure of a drug, due to the fact that it got patients too high. Being “too high” is a condition in which the patient is unable to handle the mental effects of THC, and can even go so far as to result in a state of anxiety or paranoia for the patient. This application of only THC in Marinol breaks the convention of the entourage effect. By administering solely THC, the patient’s body is able to quickly absorb the chemical without any mitigating factors, leading some to be overwhelmed. When CBD is combined with THC, CBD works to buffer or meter the activity of THC with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Furthermore terpenes and flavonoids interact with cannabinoids at the blood-brain barrier and influence and affect the crossing of cannabinoids into the brain.

Imagine a rock star showing up to a hotel room without their cast and crew, having no one to influence and mitigate their passion, they brutally trash the hotel room and get the band banned from the hotel for life. Similar to this example, THC could overwhelm a patient and wreck their mental tranquility, and get itself (potentially along with cannabis), blacklisted by a Marinol patient. It would take a lot of education to help a patient overwhelmed by THC in Marinol to give whole plant cannabis another try. Similarly to the case of Marinol, it would be foolish for whole plant patients to only shop for strains of cannabis which are the highest in THC or CBD percentage. Such a patient would be missing out on the bigger picture when it comes to cannabis as a medicine. When you are shopping for strains of cannabis to meet your medical needs, think about how each member of the band will help your body make beautiful music again. Cannabis works seemingly magically to find its own way to where your body needs its help. If your body was short a metaphorical horn player in the band, cannabis would send a stand-in horn player to round out your whole band, and allow your body to make beautiful music again by functioning correctly. The horn player may come from the cannabinoid group, but without the advice from friends in the terpene and flavonoid groups, our horn player might play in the wrong key. Keep this in mind when selecting your next strain of medical cannabis. There is so much more to a strain’s profile than just the THC percentage!

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Please keep a medical cannabis journal in which you track each day’s strain, effects, and outcomes, so you can try different strains and find your ideal ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes. Each medical cannabis product will be clearly documented on its package sticker with percentages of the majority cannabinoids and terpenes. The mathematical relationship between the cannabinoids and terpenes which makeup the plant’s profile is known as its ratio. A plant with 5% THC and 1% CBD would be noted as a 5:1 ratio of THC to CBD. When you find your ideal ratio, use your ratio to identify new strains which are similar in chemical composition. As would be the case in a different strain with 10% THC and 2% CBD, still a 5:1 ratio mathematically. This new strain would have a similar effect on your body at ½ the first strain’s dosage, assuming similar terpene makeups. Furthermore your ideal cannabis would be additionally quantitatively described by the ratios of terpenes to each other, and to the cannabinoids. Use this approach to help you understand your medicine, and use the knowledge you gain about your unique ideal ratio to find other strains of cannabis which would be similar in effects for your unique body.

Look for your “ideal sound” in your next strain of cannabis in one of Illinois’ many legal medical cannabis dispensaries. Click here to find the one closest to you!

Posted In: Science

Germany Announces New Medical Cannabis Program

Germany has joined the growing number of countries, states, cities, and towns across the world who choose to reconsider cannabis and grow their understanding of the plant, to acknowledge that cannabis has both medical value and appropriate medical use. German officials estimated that new federal legislation would be introduced in the spring of 2017, roughly a year from now. CNN reported Germany’s Federal Health Minister, Hermann Gröhe, spoke to the spirit of their motivations by saying, “Our goal is that seriously ill people are looked after to the best of our ability.” Unlike the current situation here in America, top level German officials are working to ensure that cannabis fits inside the existing health care system. To that effort, the medical cannabis legislation will include provisions to ensure this new medicine flows through existing channels in typical pharmacies, and insurance companies will cover patients’ costs.

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Taking a strictly medical approach, the new program will have strict entry criteria intended to focus the implementation away from recreational use. One of these requirements from the German Health Ministry would be that the patients had already tried typical medical avenues, and are turning to medical cannabis only when they “have no therapeutic alternative.” The spirit of this requirement may be a result of residual fear on the topic of cannabis as medicine, as officials are trying to force patients to suffer through ineffective treatments to prove they need medical cannabis. By creating a medical cannabis program, Germany is acknowledging cannabis has medical use, and forcing patients to unnecessarily suffer only quells the fear of those who are still on the fence about medical cannabis. In typical politics it is said that half the pie is better than none of the pie. This first slice of the medical cannabis pie by Germany will surely be followed by more slices, as fear on the topic evaporates.

What do you think about Germany creating a medical cannabis program? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!

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