In 1978, the federal government of the United States launched the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) Program, an initiative intended to provide medical cannabis grown by the government to those with serious diseases and health issues — for life. The program, however, wasn’t launched as a result of a curiosity regarding the medicinal efficacy of cannabis on the part of the nation’s leaders. Rather, it was the culmination of two lawsuits by Robert Randall, a pioneering patient from Sarasota, Florida.
In 1976, Randall sued the government and won in a federal court the right to use medical cannabis to treat his glaucoma. A Federal District Court ruled that Randall’s use of marijuana was a necessity for his health. In fact, it was this case that established the precedent of medical necessity as a plausible legal defense for prosecuted patients. However, according to the New York Times:
“Two years later, the government cut off his access to the drug, but he sued for reinstatement and won.”
Randall’s second legal battle and victory resulted in the creation of the Compassionate IND Program, which — although it serves a very small number of patients — is still in effect today. Roughly 1,200 low-quality cannabis joints (cigarettes) are distributed to patients around the United States each month.
Although Randall died in June 2001, several other patients continue to each month receive large tins containing 300 low-grade pre-rolled joints from the federal government. The cannabis is grown on a farm at the University of Mississippi that has been managed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) since 1968. Unfortunately, the Bush administration closed enrollment to the IND Program in 1992. Existing participants, however, remain within the program until death and continue to receive their canisters of low-THC cannabis joints.
Many are shocked to learn of this 37-year-old program and its participants. Upon first gaining knowledge of the program, it is easy to dismiss the story as an urban legend or internet clickbait. What is most problematic, however, is the hypocrisy illustrated by this effort. While government officials can arguably defend themselves by noting that it was a court decision that forced them to begin producing and delivering cannabis medicine to a small group of patients, the fact that cannabis continues to be categorized as Schedule I by the federal government is a blatant example of illogical and hypocritical public policy.
The FDA doesn’t reveal the number of patients participating in the IND Program, but some believe that between two and four remain. Two of these patients reside in Florida, including Irvin Rosenfeld, a 61-year-old stockbroker who has a tumor disorder, and Elvy Musikka, a 72-year-old glaucoma sufferer and cannabis legalization activist.
Rosenfeld began receiving cannabis under the program in 1982 and has written a book about his experience entitled My Medicine, the cover of which features him holding a large tin of low-grade government joints from the Compassionate IND program (grown on the NIDA-managed farm). He is probably the most publicized and interviewed of the participants. Echoing the perception that the government’s actions are hypocritical, Rosenfeld said:
“The United States federal government has been supplying me 10 marijuana cigarettes per day for almost 33 years, and in the same vein arresting people for possessing marijuana they give me for medical use.”
Rosenfeld uses cannabis to treat a rare bone tumor disease and has calculated his consumption of legal government cannabis over more than three decades, estimating that he has smoked more than 120,000 joints provided by the government’s pot farm at the University of Mississippi. Mussika, who has been highly critical of the IND Program and prohibition overall, notes that many federal lawmakers are completely unaware of this program.
“They’re very surprised — [most] didn’t know the government ever supplied anybody,”
Irvin Rosenfeld smoking one of the cannabis joints provided to him by the U.S. Government.
Until the government allows robust clinical research and human trials into the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, access to the drug for patients in states that have yet to legalize adult use will lag. It is currently the Schedule I status of cannabis that officially categorizes it as a highly addictive and dangerous drug with zero medical value (along with bath salts and heroin). Schedule II, a Controlled Substances Act category intended for less dangerous drugs, features methamphetamine and cocaine, both of which can be prescribed by a physician.
Because of its Schedule I status, doctors — even those in states with medical or adult use laws — cannot prescribe cannabis. Instead, they are limited to writing a recommendation. Many medical cannabis advocates are insisting on a Schedule III categorization, or lower, to ensure that ample research can be conducted that involves human trials and high-quality cannabis, such as that which can be purchased in states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.
Eventually, attrition will dwindle the patient population of the Compassionate IND Program to nothing and it will cease to exist. Although this will reduce the government’s hypocrisy, it will do little to provide safe access to cannabis medicine for millions of sick patients like Rosenfeld and Mussika.
“If I didn’t have my medical marijuana, most likely I’d be dead. If I was still alive, I’d be on disability and homebound. Instead, I’m a stockbroker here in Fort Lauderdale.”
Photo credit: wptv.com; philly.com
Colorado has been a tourist destination since before it became a state in 1876. The beauty of the rough landscape and the Rocky Mountains is undeniable, even to those who aren’t normally inspired by such natural majesty. Traditionally, the tourism enjoyed by the Centennial State has been for activities such as skiing, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, and nature photography. In 2016, however, cannabis tourism, or cannatourism, must officially be added to the list. Needless to say, those interested in such excursions should be 21 or older.
It has been two full years since Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize adult use cannabis. Since its debut, sales of permitted pot has poured tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues into the coffers of the state’s municipalities and school districts. A significant part of this growth — and much of the money — has been generated via cannabis tourism.
Some ski town dispensaries have claimed that 60-80 percent of their business is derived from those traveling from out-of-state, typically on a personal vacation. Frustrated fans of cannabis in prohibitionist states are visiting Colorado in record numbers, seeking a taste of freedom and regulated safe access, similar to how North Americans used to travel to Amsterdam to sample a more liberated environment for cannabis consumption and fellowship.
Toking in Legal Limos
Cannatourism services are available in many forms. These include cannabis-friendly limos that will make a beeline from Denver International Airport to the nearest reputable dispensary, specialty tours that explore quaint mountain dispensaries, and cannabis-friendly hotels and bed and breakfasts. The future may even bring cannacafes and social gathering places for cannabis consumers, much like how those who enjoy alcohol can visit a tavern or pub.
Let’s spend a fantasy weekend in Denver, a city that — much like Portland and Seattle — is becoming a mecca for patients and lifestyle cannabis consumers who prefer to partake of strains like the rare sativa Durban Poison or top shelf samples of Girl Scout Cookies when vacationing. Given the stress of modern life, a weekend learning about and responsibly consuming cannabis, in a variety of forms and among plenty of fellow enthusiasts, might be just the ticket to managing anxiety and maintaining a healthy, balanced perspective on life, including family and career.
The first stop on this cannabis vacation isn’t a stop at all, but rather a ride in the 420 Airport Pickup limo that travels directly to the dispensary that best caters to one’s preferences. Really into concentrates? How about edibles? Want to try that hip new whole plant extract called live resin? Given the number of specialty shops in the Denver metro area, this canna-shuttle can help, allowing patients to medicate before they even reach their lodging. This company also offers cannabis tours and a nice discount to those who purchase a round trip. Travel back to the airport in style — and avoid the worry and hassle of returning a rental car or getting busted while driving stoned.
Stocked up on cannabinoid-rich medicine, the next stop is the hotel. There are many options for canna-friendly lodging in the Mile High City, including a chain of locations by Bud+Breakfast and a premier downtown hotel that just happens to allow residents to toke up in its sumptuous suites. Bud+Breakfast (the company with the tag line “We’ll keep the bowl burning for you”) offers multiple properties, including the famous and classically beautiful Adagio Bed & Breakfast in Capital Hill, as well as multiple mountain cabin properties.
Located in one of Denver’s most beautiful historic neighborhoods, the Adagio B&B is a beautiful Victorian — and a stark contrast from the company’s cabin properties that are nestled within the mountains. The Adagio offers six “elegantly decorated” private suites that range from $200 to $300 per night and provide ready access to the attractions of downtown — including dispensaries and retail outlets.
At $300 a night, the company’s smoke-friendly cabin in Aspen isn’t cheap, but considering that it provides the utmost in beautiful mountain scenery and consummate privacy for up to six adults, it can actually be very reasonable. Another option is this hospitality company’s cabin in Silverthorne, Colorado, which offers five suites priced from $130 to $250 per night and is perfect for a romantic getaway while vaping a nice concentrate or smoking some sticky buds purchased at the dispensary stop on the drive from the airport.
Another option is The Nativ, a swank hotel in downtown Denver that just so happens to be friendly to cannabis (and owned by culture-friendly entrepreneurs and advocates). This luxury destination offers 24-hour room service and features suites replete with a 60-inch high-definition display panels, private patios, and oversized hot tubs. The Nativ’s focus on luxury may not appeal to the more bohemian members of the cannabis culture or those on a budget, with room rates ranging from $330 to $535 per night.
However, those who prefer or are habituated to high-end accommodations, especially international business travelers, will appreciate the ability to smoke or vape without risk of being booted from their room or paying a ridiculously steep fine for having smoked in it. Nativ offers a rare mix of old school luxury and a 21st century respect for cannabis consumers, including a coffee and champagne bar and the ability to chill in style with several friends in a full-size Jacuzzi — or by oneself with a bowl of medical-grade flowers or a handy vape pen. All legally purchased and consumed.
Denver is nothing is not a hotspot for cannabis themed tours of nearly every shape and size. Many focus on dispensaries, while some offer tours of large cultivation facilities. Others focus on mountain vistas and dispensaries or retail shops that serve the slice of the skiing community that embraces cannabis for mind, body, and spirit.
The High There Bus, dubbed the Hopper, is a 20-passenger limo-style, cannabis-friendly party bus that tours Denver. But there’s a catch: Tour guests are users of the High There app, a Tinder-style dating service targeted at cannabis users. The Hopper is a legal alternative for cannabis tourists who may find a lack of desire to violate their hotel smoking policy or toke in public and risk encountering a strict police officer.
What is interesting about the Hopper, which debuted in 2016, is that it is free to ride. It is legal and, theoretically, safe to consume cannabis on this party bus, but the intent is obviously to promote the High There app. Until cannabis lounges and bars emerge that allow safe, casual use of cannabis for tourists, the Hopper will be a valid alternative — for those who are willing to sign up for the High There dating service, that is.
Some of the best, and most affordable, tours in Denver are offered by My 420 Tours, which features dispensary and grow tours beginning at only $50. A unique Sushi and Joint Roll dinner is available for $60 per person. Most tours, including the four-hour Budz & Sudz Tour (that includes time in a brewery tour, a tasting session, and dinner), carry a $100 fee, including a popular cannabis cooking class.
There’s no doubt that Denver currently offers some of the best, and most interesting, cannabis-centric tours in the nation. Another example is Cultivating Spirits, a tourism company offering a range of unusual cannabis excursions, including a three-course “cannabis pairing” dinner and a Food, Wine, and Cannabis tour.
For foodies who love to consume superlative cannabis, get the munchies, and dine in style, Cultivating Spirits is a dream come true. Wine fans who would never walk into an incense-drenched head shop may love the classy tours offered by this company. Although pricey (the Food, Wine, and Cannabis tour is $250 per person, but offers the advantage of being limited to only 10 guests), tours from this company last several hours and have received praise from picky guests. Said one customer:
“I was taken care of the whole night by the guide, never having an empty glass, dull moment, or question unanswered.”
Another credible source of pot-friendly tours is Colorado Highlife Tours, which proudly proclaims that it has been providing “safe, fun, and discreet” tours since 2013. The Denver Stony Saturday Tour, which costs $90, is a 3-4 hour sight seeing jaunt that allows guests to smoke or vape while riding the party bus. The tour includes stops at a glass blowing shop and an indoor cultivation facility, as well as a 4:20 pm smokeout that makes available vaporizers, dab rigs, and water pipes. Guests can smoke or vape virtually any way they desire — even if they come to the party unprepared in terms of a smoking implement.
The Unique Stuff
From the perspective of its psychoactive effect and euphoria, cannabis is known to both generate and enhance creativity. For painters, those who practice yoga and meditation, and many other artists or creative types, pot is arguably a performance enhancer, aiding sometimes intrepid artistic efforts for both amateurs and professionals alike. For many, cannabis eliminates “writer’s block.”
Puff, Pass, and Paint is one of the more successful, as well as unique, cannabis-centric businesses that has emerged during the dawn of the age of adult use legalization that began in Colorado in 2014. Offering classes in the three top legal cannabis hotspots — Seattle, Portland, and Denver — this funky “cannabis-friendly, all-inclusive art class” is both daring and rewarding in its embrace of students puffing down or vaping their own herb or oil while trying to get inspired to create, learn, paint, and mingle.
A new class in the mix is Puff, Pass, and Pottery. Class fees are very reasonable and range from about $50 to $65. Said the chain’s owner, Heidi Keyes, “Puff, Pass, and Paint is a 420-friendly art class, which basically means that it is providing an environment to come and create — and feel very comfortable doing that.” She added:
“And also to be able to partake in cannabis, if you choose to.”
Those wishing to break from the traditional couples vacation should seriously consider Denver and the entire state of Colorado for their next adventure. A full catalog of services allows patients and consumers of all age groups and budgets.
The only unfortunate thing is the fact that cities like Denver, Seattle, and Portland are among the very few places in all of the United States where patients and fans of the cannabis culture can travel to enjoy legal adult access to regulated, lab tested, high-quality cannabis medicine and related products and services. Hopefully this will change in the coming years, especially if more states legalize adult use in the 2016 elections.
Some Advice for Cannatourists
One final piece of advice, especially for novice cannatourists. Those interested in Colorado edibles should seriously heed the mantra start low, go slow. Good tours will expose guests to professional budtenders who will preach likewise and give real world dosing (titration) advice to customers, with a full slew of warnings for first-time consumers. Due to the abundant sources of safe, tested, and properly labeled edibles in the state, visitors are warned to avoid edibles from the black market.
Photo credit: Bud+Breakfast (The Maryjane Group), Puff Pass and Paint, My 420 Tours
Becca Williams isn’t a meek cannabis advocate. She doesn’t hide her identity or publish under a pseudonym. Nor is she a daring dabber posting lung-busting party videos to YouTube. Williams, a National Public Radio veteran, has reinvented her career — and life — by dedicating her efforts to producing a series of intelligent videos regarding her favorite topic: Cannabis.
In a career reboot magnific, Williams’ view of cannabis is embodied in her online video show Marijuana Straight Talk. This informative series, for which Williams serves as executive producer and host, is comprised of short, three to five minute episodes and infuses humor and a neighborly, relaxed tone that is reflective of cannabis itself.
Despite her tasteful and sometimes goofy sense of humor, Williams is nothing if not serious about being a catalyst for real change and defying nearly a century of stigma when it comes to this highly medicinal and therapeutic plant. Her show clearly reflects a theme of smart “edutainment.” Williams recently relocated to Denver to better position herself and gain the ability to feature a large number of quality guests and events on her show.
Education and Defying Stigma
Probably the two most significant aspects of Marijuana Straight Talk are its educational value and how it helps break down stigma. Williams herself clearly defies stereotypical images of the stoner culture. This middle-aged neo-hippy, replete with MacBook and her cute Jack Russell terrier, is dripping with sincerity. After only a few episodes, it became abundantly clear that Williams is determined to change the way Americans think about cannabis — be it for lifestyle enhancement or as a medicine. Said Williams:
“We are a very wounded culture around this plant. It’s been misrepresented to us; there’s been a misinformation campaign. We need to educate ourselves around it.”
In 2015, Williams’ charming show achieved a significant milestone in terms of viewers reached. After only two pilot episodes, Marijuana Straight Talk was the second most popular weekly current affairs program on the Free Speech TV network. The big deal? The show, which is slated to begin weekly production in summer of 2016, is distributed by DISH Network and DirecTV, making it available to more than 40 million TV households (and about 100 million people).
With respect to audience size and meaningful impact (number of humans educated), Williams may very well become one of the country’s leading cannabis legalization advocates, with a sharp focus on gently teaching viewers without putting them to sleep. With 10 states considering adult use legalization this year alone, the education of voters is critical if the current wave of legalization is to be sustained. In response to the success of the first couple of pilot episodes of her full-length show, Williams said, “It goes to show how hungry we Americans are for information and education about cannabis.”
This determined advocate’s attitude toward the cannabis plant is embodied in the Values Statement of Marijuana Straight Talk. The first line reads: “We believe in the Cannabis Plant’s extraordinary power to heal body, mind, and spirit — and our natural world.” “Body, mind, and spirit.” It’s an enlightening and holistic framework from which to approach this healing herb and, in the overarching effort of Williams, to recast the plant with an intelligent, science-based, and inclusive culture for the 21st century.
Becca Williams Interview
Gooey Rabinski: When did you first consume cannabis and not simply enjoy it, but realize that it might change your life?
Becca Williams: I fell in love with the creative life, how it amplified my perspective and offered an elevated awareness of my surrounding and others. I think that happened from the get-go, the first time. What’s morphed over the years is my relationship with the Plant and how I interact with her. Early on, it was a very social experience, passing a joint with a group of friends. Or strangers. Who cares…right? For concerts, it was usually about getting as baked as I could and surrendering to the music. It was a great time!
It’s a long story, but when I was about 30, it became clear to me what an emotional mess I was from a really challenging, abusive childhood. As an adult, I was living with lots of trauma and panic at every turn, often paralyzed with fear in settings where I felt I had to make an impression or make others like me. I experienced envy, like feeling others were so much better than me, and had a lot of self-worth issues.
It was at this point that I realized what a balm cannabis was for my nervous system, in scientific terms, and for my “emotional body,” if you wanna go down the spiritual path. It stroked my soul. It continues to do so, even more so. Over the last few years, I’ve become a serious student of marijuana as a plant spirit medicine. She is a powerful ally.
I’m more drawn than ever to communing with the Plant in solitude, going inward. I believe it’s because I’ve done so much personal growth work with her as a guide. Sure, I still love the communal experience. Now, at this point in my life, getting together with others and partaking is much more intentional. What I mean by that is coming together, two or more of us, lifted by the plant in order to explore our deepest selves within a field of trust. That may scare the shit out of some people, but for others it’s where the magic happens.
GR: How has regular cannabis consumption improved your life and career?
BW: I have one word for you: Healing. Cannabis has helped me heal my core wounds that catalyzed all those difficult, heavy emotions plaguing me for so many years. To quote a beloved album, what a long strange trip it’s been. The Plant’s spirit medicine has been vital to my personal evolution.
GR: What do you consider the two biggest problems facing the cannabis legalization movement in the United States?
BW: Ok, I’m gonna answer this not from a place of really being in the know with all the legalization and political machinations, but from my own knowledge. Instead of problems, I think in terms of opportunities that we want to embrace at a macro level, over the long haul.
What do we want? The most important one, the way I see it, is to create and promote a “cannabis economy” that transcends the inevitable march toward making this Plant just another commodity. On our website, we have Marijuana Straight Talk‘s “Values Statement” (what we believe) and if you put all the points together, it’s a recipe for creating culture around this Plant. Two of the stand-outs are “We trust that the Cannabis business world can be a force to serve the greater good” and “We support the sovereign right to embrace the Cannabis Plant in our lives — in the many ways we choose.”
If we, as citizens and business people, focus our intention on what we want — as opposed to what we don’t want — the force will be with us! Ask any Jedi master.
GR: What is the goal of your show Marijuana Straight Talk? What is the direction of the series?
BW: It’s simple. Marijuana Straight Talk‘s assignment is to find and showcase the voices that most effectively articulate the best directions for an emerging cannabis culture. We love stories about regular people being inspired by cannabis’ many facets and how their passions translate to being good stewards of the plant. In the business world, we want to shine a light on conscious business practices within the industry. They are the ones who will be leading the way in supporting quality growing, manufacturing, and fair labor practices, along with fair prices and availability. This is so much fun!
GR: Literally hundreds of communities throughout Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have or are in the process of banning sales of cannabis — even medical sales. How would this scenario change if citizens were more educated?
BW: You know, I don’t think it’s about ignorance actually. I think it’s about the fear that’s velcro-ed to images of…oh, off the top of my head…good for nothins, raids, Reefer Madness, debauchery. Too much of a good thing doesn’t square with our puritanical images of “clean living.” These wounds — from nearly 80 years of our government making the Plant forbidden — cut deep.
Like recovering from the abuse in my childhood, it’s about finding ways to heal our culture and set a course for the future. And the best way to do that is by redefining how we interact with this remarkable Plant. We must encourage and nurture each other to leverage our strengths as citizens to accomplish that.
GR: What does the future hold for Becca Williams?
BW: Dinner and a movie? Oh, you mean long range….
It’s gonna sound way out of left field, but one of my fondest desires would be to join our strengths with others to help support the development of an infrastructure around the growing of hemp. And especially as it relates to creating cooperatives where the employees own and jointly run the business, including the farmers growing the hemp. There are some great examples of this in Europe, like Mondragon in Spain.
I think this would be an excellent start to bringing into the picture all those who suffered so mightily under the jack boot of U.S. law enforcement. Imagine large hemp processing plants that employ people of color and those who emerge from prisons haunted by the stigma of possession charges.
What does media have to do with this? Hell, Marijuana Straight Talk would cover this, as we say in the news business, like red on rash. Somebody starts a project like this, we’ll be all over it. This is a grass-roots economy creation at its best. I wanna shout it from the rooftops. Big Pot, as the New York Times calls it, is going to emerge, for sure. But let’s invite them to a seat at the table in helping to craft this new paradigm. Despite all the naysaying, they may surprise us.
Participants in the cannabis culture may be familiar with a few of the rare varieties of the plant that are categorized as landrace strains, including Colombian Gold, Durban Poison, Northern Lights, and Afghan Kush. “Landrace” simply refers to the small number of surviving strains of cannabis that evolved naturally in the geographic region in which they were initially discovered (by 20th century humans, that is). Some experts believe that about 100 of these rare strains exist today.
Landrace strains hail from global regions such as Jamaica, Afghanistan, India, Africa, Mexico, Pakistan, and Central America. They are believed to have originated in the Hindu Kush region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is one reason that so many strain names incorporate the term “Kush,” such as the always-popular OG Kush (the “OG” means “Ocean Grown,” denoting West Coast breeding and cultivation).
Many cultivators believe that the best examples of cannabis sativa are grown in a region as close to the equator as possible and at a relatively high elevation. Thus, mountainous areas in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and Indonesia are almost perfectly suited to the cultivation of high-quality cannabis. This is no coincidence; landrace strains hail from most of these regions. Technically, landrace strains are those that have stabilized over time as a result of natural inbreeding.
Other definitions of landrace cannabis include any that hasn’t purposefully been bred or otherwise manipulated by humans. Such indigenous varieties of marijuana, because they have evolved within a particular region, are very precisely acclimated to their local climates — and may offer unique medicinal qualities that are specifically tuned to the native humans of that region. Wrote Rick Pfrommer, Director of Education at Harborside Health Center, one of the nation’s largest dispensaries:
“It’s not that [landrace strains are] necessarily better, [they’re] just different, and perhaps more effective for some patients’ specific conditions or needs.”
Source of All Modern Strains
Many readers aren’t interested in a history lesson, however. How are landrace strains related to modern varieties and hybrids? Put simply, landraces are the origin of all modern cannabis strains. They are the genesis of cannabis in society and reflect its state of development, or evolution, before modern humans began breeding and cultivating the herb for medicine, lifestyle enhancement, and profit.
Cannabis breeders long ago took original landrace strains and bred, or crossed, them in an effort to create new strains possessing the best characteristics of both parents (and, just as with dogs or humans, hopefully few of their bad traits). Some strains feature shorter growing periods or are more resistant to pests or mold, making them the desire of cultivators. Others, especially sativa varieties, may be more difficult to grow and feature relatively long flowering cycles, but can also deliver unique medicinal and psychoactive effects that are sought by many patients and cannabis consumers.
For all practical purposes, it must be assumed that many landrace strains, in their original, pure form, have been lost forever. Endless crosses over several decades in most areas of the world, especially North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe, have resulted in diluted genetics. The sad reality is that many “pure” breeds of cannabis are often mislabeled. Many purported examples of seeds, harvested cannabis flowers, or concentrates from pure landrace strains are inevitably not. Instead, they are sometimes the descendents of multiple landraces that have been bred (either purposefully or accidentally), going back an unknown number of generations — and with possibly very different characteristics. Also, genetic mutations easily emerge, especially under different growing conditions, which can cause great stress to mature plants.
For decades, strains have been bred to bring out their potency, especially in terms of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the cannabinoid in the plant that delivers psychoactive effects and is largely responsible for its euphoria — but also is a powerful medicine for dozens of diseases. However, researchers and medical professionals have identified something called the entourage effect that supports the concept of whole flower medicine by observing that cannabinoids and terpenes interact synergistically, in a delicate and nuanced supplementation of the human body’s endocannabinoid system.
The good news is that a significant portion of the cannabis breeding community has been focused on creating strains that deliver the greatest medicinal value. Many modern varieties of cannabis are a far cry from the original strains from which they are descended. Just as a modern human living in Kentucky might be a descendant of American founding father Benjamin Franklin while, in most respects, the two humans are very different, cannabis strain crosses often, in reality, feature a morphology (shape and size), growing characteristics, and high type that is very different from their landrace ancestors. Sometimes, crosses and hybrids are more appropriate and therapeutic than landrace strains for particular diseases or ailments.
Understanding Phenotypes and Heirlooms
When seeds from landrace strains are cultivated outside the zone in which they evolved, they produce what geneticists and breeders label phenotypes. Phenotypes are transmogrifications of the plant that result in similar, but different characteristics. This includes morphology, development (such as the length of flowering cycles), and biochemical properties (potency and cannabinoid/terpene profiles). Phenotypes that are direct descendents of landrace strains, with no breeding or crossbreeding, are known as heirlooms.
In landrace strains grown outside their area of origin, a change occurs in the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the resinous trichomes found on the female flowers of these heirloom varieties. Because they necessarily receive different light cycles, sometimes artificial light instead of natural, and different soil (not to mention dramatic variances in water, humidity, and nutrition), these strains must modify and adapt to their new environments. This changes the inherent characteristics of these strains, including their medical efficacy and high type.
Because they have evolved over hundreds of thousands or even millions of years, landrace strains are considered to be more “balanced,” with terpene and cannabinoid profiles that are in harmony with the needs of the plant, its environment, and — in theory — the humans and animals living in the region that consumed it. (All mammals have an endocannabinoid system and, therefore, are affected by cannabis in a manner similar to humans.)
Origin of American Cultivation Culture
The cannabis cultivation cultures in Northern California and Hawaii have their genesis in heirloom strains introduced to the United States during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. The climate in Northern California sometimes closely approximates that of parts of Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains. Because the central West Coast of the United States is roughly similar in the weather it receives, landrace strains brought back from some regions of Indonesia and the Middle East have traditionally thrived in Northern California. With them, the cannabis culture in the United States has also thrived. Both Hawaii and the entire West Coast have become synonymous with high-quality outdoor grown cannabis — just as Columbia is known for producing some of the world’s best coffee beans.
Patients and lifestyle consumers wishing to expand their cannabis horizons should seek out landrace and heirloom strains in an effort to learn more about the roots of cannabis in not only North America, but throughout the world. Cultivators wanting a change of pace should strive to obtain seeds and clones (cuttings) from heirloom strains in an effort to keep them alive for current and future generations and give patients (and medical professionals, including researchers) additional options for cannabis medicine.
Classic Landrace Strains
In the past, landrace strains that happened to be sativas were eschewed by gardeners for indicas and crosses that featured shorter flowering periods. This was simply because these varieties were more profitable for commercial cultivators. However, the recent wave of recreational and medical cannabis laws at the state level in the U.S. has spawned markets for special strains, many of which are landrace sativas (such as Durban Poison).
Examples of popular and classic landrace strains include the following:
- Afghan Kush: A pure indica strain purported to have originated in the Hindu Kush Mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- G13: A landrace from Afghanistan that typically leans toward indica. However, two phenotypes of this strain exist, the second of which is a sativa.
- Durban Poison: An unusually potent sativa from the South African port city of Durban. Click here to read an expert review of this strain.
- Acapulco Gold: The infamous landrace sativa that hails from the Acapulco region of Southwest Mexico and typically features high levels of THC.
- Northern Lights: A legendary indica, this highly inbred Afghani is purported to hail from British Columbia.
- Rooibaard: A sativa from the coastal area of the Transkei region of South Africa.
- Colombian Gold: The fabled cannabis hybrid that is sometimes a bit sativa-dom that originates in the Santa Marta mountains of Colombia in Central America.
- Hawaiian: A sativa-dom hybrid from the islands of Hawaii.
- Malawi Gold: A pure sativa is from the Salima region of Malawi in Southeast Africa.
- Thai: A sativa from, as its name implies, Thailand. Hybrids derived from Thai include Fruity Thai and Juicy Fruit Thai.
- Panama Red: This sativa from Panama became popular in the late 1960s, during the hippy psychedelic era.
- Punto Rojo: A sativa from Columbia that is considered by some to be even better than Colombian Gold.
Patients who register with their state’s medical cannabis program typically become, literally, card carrying members. What many do not realize is that some states recognize the registrations of those from outside areas, something that is called reciprocity. While most states do not recognize out-of-state medical cannabis exemptions or qualifications, a few do. Of these, there are important differences of which millions of traveling patients should be aware.
The medical cannabis laws of most states do not allow reciprocity for one simple reason: It invites scrutiny by federal authorities, specifically those in the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. The Justice Department is home to the DEA and exercises oversight for interstate commerce. It therefore has a vested concern to ensure that diversion (legal cannabis being delivered to illegal recipients) and other fraudulent activity is not involved. The issue becomes only more complex based on the fact that medical, and even recreational, cannabis is legal in some states, but all forms of cannabis are illegal at the federal level.
The federal government categorizes cannabis as Schedule I, meaning it is officially as “dangerous and addictive” as heroin and bath salts. In fact, both cocaine and methamphetamines, two truly addictive drugs that nearly any medical professional will testify are more dangerous than cannabis, both reside in less-restrictive Schedule II; they can even be prescribed by a physician.
Possession vs. Purchase
Four states with medical cannabis laws on the books allow visitors to legally possess and consume cannabis (within limits), but do not provide safe access via dispensaries to the medicine or related products (like concentrates, edibles, tinctures, and topicals).
States allowing registered patients from out-of-state to possess cannabis include:
- New Hampshire: Visiting patients are permitted to possess and consume cannabis, but cannot purchase or grow the herb.
- Arizona: Card-carrying patients from other states are permitted to possess and use cannabis, but not purchase it.
- Michigan: Visiting patients may possess and use. If driving with cannabis, the herb must be stored in a case in a locked trunk of the vehicle.
- Rhode Island: Like similar states, visiting qualifying patients may use and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, but cannot purchase from dispensaries in the state.
There are three states that practice full reciprocity and will legally allow, under certain circumstances, out-of-state patients to make purchases at licensed dispensaries. This is a way for those suffering a debilitating disease or condition, especially those who must medicate daily, to obtain medicine when they are traveling. It is not recommended that patients attempt to carry cannabis through an airport or on a flight. While many are successful, the legal ramifications in some states — or from federal authorities — simply are not worth the risk for the average patient.
It is legal for any patient possessing a valid medical cannabis card, from any state, to purchase, possess, and consume cannabis products at Nevada dispensaries. In fact, because reciprocity is practiced by so few states in the U.S., Nevada may become a destination for patients in other states who wish to vacation or meet business clients, but don’t desire to — or simply can’t — go without their medicine for the duration of their travel.
In Nevada, reciprocity is fairly straightforward. At their first dispensary visit, patients from out-of-state are asked to sign an affidavit testifying that they are currently a valid patient in another state. In addition, traveling patients are restricted to that initial dispensary for one month. Because most travelers, especially those vacationing in Las Vegas, will be staying a considerably shorter period of time than a month (a two to seven day span is more common), they are limited to a single dispensary for that particular trip. Las Vegas is significant, especially considering that 40 million people travel there each year (that’s the entire population of California, the most populous state in the nation).
Thus, patients visiting Las Vegas or Reno should be careful when selecting their initial dispensary. If their next trip to the Silver State is more than 30 days in the future, they will then be able to shop at the dispensary of their choice. Some have pondered if Nevada will pass recreational legalization via a ballot initiative in November 2016. If it does, Las Vegas could become the Amsterdam of the United States, being America’s legal adult playground for more than merely gambling and big-dollar magic acts.
The fact that Nevada is risking federal scrutiny to do what is best for patients is both relatively novel among states that have enacted medical cannabis laws, but also within the theme of Nevada’s tourism. If there are three states that understand the economic and cultural benefits of a robust tourism industry, it is Nevada, Colorado, and California. This spirit is finally being expressed within state laws affecting medical cannabis patients.
In Hawaii, patients from the mainland must simply register with the state. None of the details of this program are available, however, due to the fact that it will not go into effect until January 1, 2018. Patients traveling to this classic vacation destination of perfect temperatures and gorgeous beaches must remain patient for their opportunity to spend a few days in paradise while also remaining medicated to reduce or eliminate pain and nausea or deliver relief from inflammation-based diseases such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and even cancer.
Maine requires that the recommending physician of visiting patients submit a form that testifies to the patient’s condition and eligibility in their home state. Visiting patients may designate a caregiver or dispensary in Maine, but not both. Surprisingly — in what seems to be an effort to accommodate those who relocate to Maine, not just visitors or vacationers — patients can have their doctor petition for their right to cultivate up to six mature plants.
Thus, patients who qualify for their home state’s medical cannabis program may visit or move to Maine and immediately request, via their recommending doctor, legal permission to consume and even cultivate cannabis.
Federal legality would eliminate the need for states to practice reciprocity in their recognition of registered medical cannabis patients from fellow states. However, this isn’t something that is on the political horizon in Washington, D.C. and a popular topic in Congress. Until true progress is made on Capitol Hill, patients will have to rely upon the handful of states that officially recognize the programs of those outside their own borders.