Interview: Becca Williams of Marijuana Straight Talk

Interview: Becca Williams of Marijuana Straight Talk

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

Which States Offer Medical Cannabis Program Reciprocity?

Which States Offer Medical Cannabis Program Reciprocity?

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.

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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.

Nevada

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.

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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.

Hawaii

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.

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Maine

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.

Study Reveals Benefits of Incorporating Cannabis in Alzheimers Treatment Regimens

Study Reveals Benefits of Incorporating Cannabis in Alzheimers Treatment Regimens

Alzheimer disease (also known as Alzheimer’s disease or simply Alzheimers) was discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who diagnosed it following an autopsy on the brain of a person who died of an unknown mental illness.

Alzheimer’s actually begins damaging the brain up to a decade prior to the onset of any form of short-term memory loss. It is this memory loss that is the infamous first symptom of the disease.

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Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and plagues about five million Americans. It is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder and the most common form of dementia. In fact, it is estimated that Alzheimer disease causes 60 to 70 percent of all cases of dementia. One in three senior citizens will eventually die from this disease or another form of dementia.

2016 Israeli Study

While previous research has already revealed the benefits of cannabis in the treatment of neurological disorders, including Alzheimers and Parkinson’s, a new study confirms previous findings.

In a study published in January 2016, a team from Israel comprised of medical researchers from Tel-Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University, added medical cannabis oil to the treatment regimens of a small group of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. Researches administered the medical cannabis oil to deliver THC to study participants. The objective of the study was to measure the efficacy and safety of cannabis oil as a supplement to traditional pharmacotherapy for the relief of “behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.”

Concluded the study:

“Adding medical cannabis oil to Alzheimer’s disease patients’ pharmacotherapy is safe and a promising treatment option.”

This study was conducted to further explore the previously proven background that “Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).”

Cannabis has also been proven to provide relief from several other symptoms of aging experienced by seniors, including arthritis, chronic pain and loss of appetite. While initial studies are promising, the neuroprotective qualities of the plant should be explored further.

Until such research is permitted in the United States and Congress is willing to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, similar studies will be lacking in the States. As long as cannabis is legally considered as dangerous and addictive as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, patients, caretakers, and physicians will lack the knowledge to apply the best strains of cannabis to a variety of diseases and conditions. Similarly, American cannabis breeders and cultivators will be left to rely upon anecdotal patient testimonies and research conducted outside the borders of the U.S.

Linalool Cannabis Terpene

Linalool Cannabis Terpene

Many are familiar with the major cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, which have such great efficacy for conditions like depression, PTSD, and epilepsy. But cannabinoids are only part of the picture. Terpenes are like molecular cousins to cannabinoids and serve the primary role of delivering a wide variety of alluring aromas to cannabis flowers, but also offer a wide range of medicinal benefits as well.

In addition to aroma, terpenes deliver sometimes great medicinal value. They have been found to fight cancer and act as an analgesic (pain killer). Like amino acids, terpenes are powerful building blocks within the plant’s physiology that aid in the production of vitamins, hormones, pigments, resins, and — yes, that most prized part of the herb — cannabinoids. Cannabis plants release more terpenes when temperatures are higher (one reason they emit strong odors during the peak of harvest season).

Understanding Terpenes

More than 200 terpenes are available in the cannabis plant, while more than 20,000 exist in nature. They are produced in the small resin glands that appear primarily on the surface of the flowers and sugar leaves of cannabis plants called trichomes. It is estimated that there are nearly 1000 strains of cannabis that have been bred. Each of these features a distinct and unique mix of terpenes, something called a terpene profile.

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Cannabis and cannabis products — such as concentrates — sold in legal and regulated states often feature a label providing a laboratory analysis that lists the exact percentages of cannabinoids and terpenes. Often, lab techs, budtenders, and pot nerds will discuss particular strains or extracts of cannabis in terms of their terpene profiles and how the overall efficacy of one profile (an individual of a particular strain) compares with other samples or methods of extracting concentrates.

Major terpenes include myrcene, pinene, and limonene. Myrcene, which conveys earthy and clove-like odors, determines whether a particular strain is indica or sativa by its percentage within the plant (further illustrating the important role played by terpenes). Pinene, a terpene also found in evergreens, has been found to increase mental focus and energy and acts as a bronchodilator — making it helpful for asthma sufferers. Limonene, as its name implies, provides an aroma of citrus and is found not only in cannabis, but also oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. It has been revealed to alleviate depression and aid in digestion.

Terpenes are very volatile, delicate molecules that are easily destroyed by heat and oxidation. Popular cannabis concentrates, like BHO and CO2 oil, are mostly void of terpenes. One new extraction method called live resin preserves the terpene profile of cannabis plants. This process involves cryogenically freezing plants immediately after harvest and then using a laboratory extraction process (backyard brewers need not apply) to remove and isolate a more accurate representation of a particular plant’s mix of cannabinoids and terpenes.

What is Linalool?

Linalool, one of the minor terpenes found in cannabis, conveys a floral aroma, sometimes with a hint of spice. More than 200 species of plants produce linalool, including a variety of mints and herbs. More important, linalool serves many roles in relieving a number of symptoms, including pain, depression, seizures, inflammation (similar to limonene), and even insomnia (because it acts as a sedative). Its tranquilizing effects are helpful for those suffering with many types of psychosis.

  • Analgesic: Linalool is helpful for conditions like multiple sclerosis, dystonia, arthritis, post-operative pain, and chronic pain from any source because it is a pain killer. Combined with cannabinoids of the same efficacy, linalool can be a reinforcing agent in a patient’s struggle to manage pain, especially if they are trying to avoid or reduce use of opiates such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin.
  • Antidepressant: More than 20 million people in the United States alone suffer from sometimes debilitating depression. This common psychological ailment can negatively affect one’s career, personal relationships, and even physical health. Linalool, when combined with cannabinoids like THC that are also effective in helping alleviate depression, helps form an overall strategy for using cannabis to treat these types of disorders.
  • Anti-Convulsant: Just as chemotherapy is used to treat conditions other than cancer, seizures afflict those with conditions other than epilepsy, such as traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, and hydrocephalus. Most seizures feature a duration of between 30 seconds and two minutes. Typically, they do not cause lasting harm, although they seizures often very taxing, painful, or exhausting for sufferers. Seizures that last longer than five minutes are considered life threatening.
  • Anti-Inflammatory: Those suffering from inflammation-based diseases, such as Crohn’s, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, fibromyalgia, dermatitis, IBS, lupus, and Parkinson’s, among many others, gain benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of linalool (as well as a variety of anti-inflammatory cannabinoids).
  • Sedative and Sleep Aid: It is estimated that 10-30 percent of people suffer from insomnia at some point in their lives, with 10 percent reported to experience chronic and severe sleep deprivation. Cannabinoids like CBN, when combined with terpenes such as linalool, help patients get the sleep they require to maintain homeostasis (balance) and health. Adequate sleep is critical for patients to most effectively fight their condition or disease.

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The  Studies

Ancient cultures have used terpenes like linalool, available in a variety of aromatic herbs like cannabis, for millennia to treat a wide variety of conditions. 21st century research has confirmed the beliefs of these ancient civilizations, revealing strong medical efficacy for a variety of conditions.

A 2002 study published in the Journal of Phytomedicine revealed that linalool is a major anti-inflammatory agent, potentially helping with a variety of inflammation-related ailments, such as cancer, arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. The same research team, in a 2003 study, found linalool to also be a pain killer. These researchers again, in 2006, conducted another linalool study that further collected and examined data from animal models. This study reinforced the fact that linalool is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

2008 research published in the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal supported the sedative qualities of linalool. The study estimated that 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety-related ailments, with 16 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 54 being patients of one or more anxiety conditions, which sometimes lead to substance abuse and mood disorders.

This study revealed linalool to be a powerful sedative that delivers real efficacy to those who suffer anxiety disorders and one of their most common side effects, insomnia. Concluded the study:

“Our data…suggested that linalool modulates the central nervous system by producing unconsciousness and degradation of motor movements.”

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A 2010 study involving mice that employed three different sub-types of linalool found it to be an effective anticonvulsant, meaning it shows significant promise for those who suffer seizures, such as patients of epilepsy and brain tumors. Reported the study:

“Linalool…[was] effective in preventing tonic convulsions induced by transcorneal electroshock in the animals.”

More Research Needed

As with all areas of cannabis science, terpenes like linalool are in desperate need of well funded, robust research in the form of human trials. Until cannabis is dropped from Schedule I and real studies are permitted by reputable research institutions and laboratories, medical professionals and patients must play a guessing game in terms of the types and dosages of terpenes like linalool that are most appropriate for particular conditions.

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