Op-Ed by Andrew Shaw, Co-Founder & Publisher of PuffinStyle.com

The cannabis market is evolving at the speed of light.

Alcohol, tobacco and pharma players are adapting to the new normal of legalization as the cannabis industry rapidly emerges from the shadows into the light of day.

As a long time self-medicator, now co-founder and publisher of this pro-cannabis website – I’ve been digesting the latest scientific, financial and cultural literature on the topic – while having long been aware of the anecdotal health benefits.

When my mother’s church investment group starting buying weed stocks it was proof positive that Canada has changed its attitude towards weed and I am happy you are reading this – as it means you may be considering the same shift.

That said, one of the most reliable criticisms leveled at the illicit cannabis industry during the American war on drugs is the claim of risks associated with a contaminated supply.

Perhaps in the 70’s the product was so weak there may have been a need for the sake of illicit goals to ‘spike’ or ‘lace’ the product but the little plant that could, certainly has, now with nearly a century of purpose-specific scientific breeding the species has evolved into an extremely potent source of medicine.

In my life of near 45 years I’ve been witnessing a cultural and legal marathon to cannabis legalization and it’s wonderful to see it finally arrive. Specifically the social normalization occurring to move cannabis from the realm of criminal prohibition to health policy.

I had my first weed encounter at the age of 13 in Australia and since then across several continents and thousands of individual experiences I’ve never come across a bag of laced weed. Ever.

The only side effect I’ve ever worried about is being criminally prosecuted.

Why is Cannabis special?

The cannabis plant has both a male and female species that can be bred and refined into very different genetic makeups.

A well bred and reliably cultivated strain can become a natural factory of specialized cannabinoids for targeted medical therapeutics. These molecules can be used for therapies such as epilepsy control, cancer care, glaucoma, pain relief, PTSD, stress relief and much, much more.

All living species develop a strategy for propagation and this ancient plant seems to have cultivated a relationship with the human race.

It’s both elegant and beautiful.

Just like painting with numbers… if the breeding is right, it’s possible to grow variants that have efficacy for specific health conditions. Breeders seek to create a perfect plant, like a perfect picture, to match a desired health benefit or outcome.

By combining strains with similar medical effects one can create increasingly targeted compounds through specialized breeding and the possibilities are mind-boggling.

In the foreseeable future – I believe researchers will succeed in compiling the entire genetic map of all known weed strains.. both heritage and bred sort of like the Ancestry.com of weed for lack of a better definition.

With a more complete genetic picture of strains, effects, benefits, medical indications, experiences, aromas, flavors and more the fullest potential of this plant will become knowable.

This research effort is well underway as various industry players line up for a piece of the action.

Make no mistake the race is on to find these medical applications.

For example, with patent protection, these molecules could be able to compete on store shelves with common OTC pain-relief products like Tylenol or Advil.

The plant manufactures cannabidiol (CBD) compounds which are naturally occurring cannabinoid constituent of cannabis. It was discovered in 1940 and initially thought not to be pharmaceutically active. It is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in hemp plants, accounting for up to 40% of the plant’s extract. – Wikipedia

CBD compounds are naturally occurring substances in weed which also occur in the human body… and it is remarkably compatibile with human physiology.

When the flower of the female plant is consumed in a variety of ways including smoking, vaping, ingesting, rubbing a topical creme or perhaps through tincture drops – the CDB molecules naturally bind to our internal cannabinoid receptors.

If you’re a creationist – everything God created has its purpose.

There are lots of industry and academic groups pursuing the holy-grail of all cannabis genetics, continually breeding top specimens to develop new strains with varying medical benefits such as killing cancer and other top health concerns of our modern age.

Also, in parallel with medicinal interests; the recreational players such as beer, spirits and energy beverage players are also jumping into the center of the fray – head first – as exemplified by the record setting deal by Constellation Brands; placing an additional $4 Billion USD investment in Canopy Growth this past August 15th 2018.

With all these competitive and legitimate interests innovating in the cannabis products sector Canada is setting the stage for a rules based system that will treat consumer protection very seriously.

If you’ve ever tried to get a food, medical or booze product approved for sale to the market in Canada – You’ll realize there are many rules, they’re all important – and we take them seriously.

As tax payers in Canada we pay for public health, so we value the proper labelling, ingredients and product information that leads to good health choices.

As a medical user or recreational consumer in Canada we have government assurances of clear product information; In terms of weed the two basic measurements are CDB & THC content.

What strain should I choose?

That’s a complex question – in the simplest terms you’ll need to understand CBD is the pain-relief body-effect molecule, THC is the psychotropic or psychoactive molecule.

For example; a strain that claims 10% CBD and 2% THC would typically make your body feel relaxed / heavy / calm / rested and would have just a mild effect on visual perception, i.e. the ‘trippy’ experience. As such high-CBD strains primarily deliver a body effect such as pain relief.

An opposite strain; like 2% CBD and 10% THC would typically present as a highly creative / visual / excitable / energetic experience. The visual perception effects of high-THC strains can be very strong, with the physical effects being more muted, but still present.

This latter example of a high-THC experience is the kind that has turned off many first-time users. Folks like this will describe having a negative emotional, physical or perceptual reaction to the product.

This typically occurs because a high-THC strain when smoked quickly can sometimes feel overpowering as the effect takes 15-20 minutes after dosing to reach it’s peak effect.

This undesirable experience can feel unsettling. However don’t fear it. It will pass.

To avoid this effect as a new user you should dose in very small increments at first such as a small puff on a joint, put it out and wait 15-20 minutes to ensure you remain comfortable and don’t exceed your tolerance.

I am not a doctor and none of this should be misconstrued as medical advice – however if you haven’t yet tried it yet this is a good guide to help you navigate your first experience.

Always consult a medical professional should you have any health matters of concern or questions.

Is it possible to over dose?

If you’re a first-timer or a some-timer never try and keep up with a seasoned smoker. Unlike a cigarette that has a 5-6 minute rush and then it fades, cannabis will sometimes have a minor effect during the 5-6 minutes it takes to smoke a joint then by the time you finish the onset of the effect just begins and can last two to three hours in terms of a ‘peak’ and ‘come-down’ experience.

From my experience – an overdose on weed can technically happen; but it’s not the typical ‘overdose’ that we see on TV from heroin or cocaine that causes death.

A weed overdose will typically present as a sudden flood of anxiety or a sense of being overwhelmed by perceptual sense changes which can be usually reversed by a high-fat meal, some water and a short lay down to let it pass.

Sometimes with a high THC strain you may feel heat flashes so put a cool cloth on your neck and rest until the sensation passes. Most negative reactions can be settled through these simple steps.

I am writing this Op-Ed for regular folks and especially seniors who may be interested in the benefits of cannabis.

If you’re considering taking first steps into cannabis consumption for health or recreational purposes – talk to your doctor prior to recreational experimentation or medical supplementation.

Doctors should be open minded and can help observe your health as you begin to explore cannabis.

If you’re professionaly monitored you can further reduce health risks.
Don’t forget – your doctor is also learning with you as it’s been stigmatized as a medicine for many years so there is plenty of emerging new science your physician can research on your behalf. Just ask them.

Here’s 5 great tips to target relief for a specific condition;

#1 – Stay with a reliable supplier who labels their products properly
#2 – Expect professional packaging to help ensure quality control
#3 – Talk to the retailer for guidance and experiment with a few strains
#4 – Once you identify a strain that works make note of the THC & CBD levels
#5 – Test your preferred strain for variations prior to consumption

The last step is very important because there are some brand name strains becoming popular like ‘Charolette’s Web’ which is well documented to have ultra-high CBD levels and virtually no THC which is specifically bred for seizure control in children.

There is a documentary about the growers and their wonderful story which is both educational and inspiring – I encourage you to watch it.

Now imagine if an unscrupulous grower is substituting another strain and trying to sell it under that same brand name, and let’s say it has a vastly different CBD & THC profile – this could seriously impact patient safety.

HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF FROM THIS RISK?

For both medical and recreational users we’ve recently come across a simple home weed testing kit by CB Scientific to validate claimed THC & CBD levels in weed before you consume it.

The CB Scientific test kits will quickly tell you if the product meets the packaging claims of CBD & THC – to help protect you from quality control failures or impostor labeling – and can ensure your self-medication or necessary experience requirements are met as a properly informed consumer.

These simple CBD & THC testing kits are very similar to a pool PH test kit.

Using a just mix a small amount of cannabis product with a fluid which reacts to reveal a color array to indicate THC & CBD levels of any weed you happen to acquire.

Also useful, when you come across a mystery strain – and it’s highly desirable for your personal needs you can quickly test the CBD & THC profiles for future purchasing decision making.

Here’s a link to the test kit information if you want to purchase and try it – we’ve brought a couple hundred kits up from the USA to distribute in Canada to get some product reviews and we’d love to hear your feedback.

It’s very popular product in California and Nevada, so we’re bringing it to you!

We are very much looking forward to receiving your product reviews so please send us your feedback at editor@puffinstyle.com

Regards,
Andrew Shaw
Co-Founder & Publisher
Puffin’ Style