Cannabis therapy

Medical marijuana dispensary offers educational classes and meeting groups.

Eva Grossman, Dispensary Manager for Sierra Wellness Connections, is organizing classes and cannabis therapy groups.

Eva Grossman, Dispensary Manager for Sierra Wellness Connections, is organizing classes and cannabis therapy groups.

PHOTO/Kelsey Fitzgerald

Although use of medical marijuana—currently legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C.—is quickly gaining acceptance across the U.S., it is still illegal under federal law, and large gaps exist in the scientific literature about medicinal benefits, recommended dosages and potential side effects. To help fill the information void, local dispensary Sierra Wellness Connections is holding cannabis therapy groups and classes, to gather patients with similar treatment needs to share their knowledge.

One cannabis therapy group called Compassionate Care for Kids will provide a time for parents treating children with medical marijuana products to meet and compare notes. Cannabidiol (CBD), for example, is a non-psychoactive cannabis extract that has been used experimentally (often with great success) to treat children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy. Due to lack of scientific research, determining dosages and courses of treatment is largely up to the discretion of the parent.

“[Marijuana] is not a federally approved drug, so you can’t do a lot of research,” Eva Grossman, dispensary manager of Sierra Wellness Connections, said. “A lot of information is anecdotal at this point, but some of these anecdotal stories are extremely powerful.”

Groups for military veterans and senior citizens will also meet and talk about their experiences using various strains, dosages, and other medical marijuana products such as tinctures and edibles.

Sierra Wellness is also planning classes like Cannabis 101 to teach people the basics of medical marijuana, and Cooking with Magic Butter Machines, to instruct people on how to make their own dose-accurate edibles—often a process of trial-and-error. “This will be a series when we can talk about making butter, coconut oil, tinctures, candies, savory dishes for people with diabetes, whatever people are interested in learning,” Grossman said.

Learning to make tinctures is another option, for people who need fast-acting relief. “A tincture is different than an edible, because with a tincture you can just put a drop underneath your tongue,” Grossman explained. “Instead of taking two hours for you to feel the effects of it, it’s like 30 seconds. So, for people who have seizures or people who have migraines and can’t wait two hours, it’s immediate.”

In early November, Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg caused an outcry among patients across the country by stating that medical marijuana was “a joke,” that “has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.” During the same week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, and Hillary Clinton suggested lowering its federal classification from a “Schedule I” to a “Schedule II” controlled substance to encourage more research on medicinal benefits.

While legislators sort things out, Grossman hopes that therapy groups and educational classes will help to connect medical marijuana users with the information they need. She is, herself, a patient. “I had a very negative experience during a surgery. Cannabis is the reason that I can do what I can do now. It’s a great alternative to pain management options that are out there for many people,” Grossman said.