Medical Marijuana 101: A Crash Course

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Inside the Holiday Inn Key Largo, community members packed the conference room on Dec. 5 to get insight into medical marijuana.

Lecturing to attendees was Dr. Gregory Sonn, who legally prescribes and recommends legal forms of cannabinoids to patients. Sonn has over 5,000 patients certified for medical marijuana.

Dr. Gregory Sonn

Since 2008, Dr. Sonn has worked with Hope Healthcare Services here in Fort Myers. After more than a decade of caring for patients who suffered from chronic diseases, Dr. Sonn realized that traditional medical practice (using only traditional medicines and therapies) would not be sufficient for his own health and well-being.

THE STRAINS

Sonn noted three strains of marijuana that are of value: Sativa, Indica and hybrids. “Sativas are a bit more stimulating. They’re tall, thin, Mediterranean, very pyscholactive, meaning the side effect profile is really beneficial for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) folks.”

As for Indica, which is the female strain of marijuana, Sonn said it has short broad base leaves and is body heavy. “She’s good for pain. She’s good for sleep time,” he said.

Hybrids are simply Indica and Sativa, according to Sonn.

“Things to pay attention to is if it’s Indica or Sativa dominant,” he said. Everybody’s different and you have it out in a way,” he said. “Indica is good for sleep, spasms, pain, anxiety and nausea. Sativa is a bit more energizing and stimulating.”

EXTRACTION

Sonn said nurseries grow plants from sprout and cloned so they’re identical.

“There’s a vegetative state. They give it 24 hours of sunshine,” he said. “Once that reaches the state to flower, they change the light cycles. They force these beautiful plants to grow exponentially fast. Some move plants every day to make them bud and flower.”

Once plants bud and flower, they’re cut and brought to a harvest area where they dry it to 10 percent or less humidity. It’s then grinded up and put into a pot with high pressure and low temperature. CO2, a gas, turns into a liquid. They pass liquid through the flower. As it warms back, this process is called superconduction, CBD drops out at its molecular weight and THC drops out at its molecular weight.

“They collect it into their own bottles. Then they put it back together in some ratio for consumption,” he said.

TREATING SERIOUS ISSUES

Sonnspent 18 years in end-of-life care. As for cancer treatment, Sonn said he gets a lot of referrals from oncologists.

“They are all seeing the benefits,” he said. “You go see a cancer doctor. He puts you on some poison. That kills cells good and bad. That’s your standard of care. If you add CBD to that standard of care, to the tune of 300 mg a day, which turns out to be $900 a month, they are showing amazing results. I wouldn’t even say this unless I was incredibly impressed withhe data.”

As for treating stroke, Sonn noted that early indications show outcomes for people who were having an acute cerebralvascular event were better when using CBD.

“The functional outcome, that’s really all that matters,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much of your brain died; it matters how much you got back at the end of this event.”

BETTER TO VAPE THAN BURN

For medicinal purposes, Sonn noted that it’s better to vape than burn.

“The problem with burning it is you don’t have a really good amount,” Sonn said. “It’s not really good medicine. If you are a new person, it’s hard to say put a small bud in a joint and smoke it and you’ll receive this much medicine. Improvements of vaporization are significant.”

MEDICAL MARIJUANA CARD

Obtaining a medical marijuana isn’t complicated, Sonn said. First, people need to see a doctor who certifies the patient. Once patients get a diagnosis deemed acceptable, they apply to the Florida Department of Health.

“Once you apply to DOH, the doctor does qualifications and DOH does bookkeeping. Once the doctor says you’re good, then you send an application to DOH for them to put rubber stamp on it. That rubber stamp costs $75 a year. If you want to be a caregiver, that’s $75 for you and the patient.”

Sonn said it takes anywhere from two weeks to 30 days to get the card. On average, cards are in patients’ hands in 20 days.

“Patients submit to DOH. Twenty days they give you another email saying congrats you’re approved. In there, I write prescriptions. It’s electronic. It takes about three weeks. Then call a dispensary. I approve all forms, meaning you get topical, inhalation products, oral products or CBD, which I always recommend for everybody.”

MEDICAL MARIJUANA 101

Thirty-three states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have approved a comprehensive public medical marijuana/cannabis programs.

The National Conference of State Legislatures characterizes Florida’s medical marijuana program as “comprehensive,” meaning there’s protection from criminal penalties for using marijuana for a medical purpose and there’s access to marijuana through dispensaries or some other system that is likely to be implemented. Also, the program allows a variety of strains, including those more than “low-THC” and it allows either smoking or vaporization of some kind of marijuana products, plant material or extract.

Medical marijuana and low-THC cannabis are available in Florida. Per the state Health Department, medical marijuana is distinct from low-THC cannabis in that it can contain significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical compound that causes the “high” commonly associated with cannabis. Unlike low-THC cannabis, the consumption of medical marijuana can lead to potent psychoactive effects in patients.

As to who qualifies, the health department says qualifying conditions include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above, a terminal condition diagnosed by a physician or a chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition.

More information is at www.flhealthsource.gov.

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