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Cannabis

Introductory Words on Cannabis: Legality, Stigma, Uses & Quality Control

Cannabis. Marijuana. Ganja. Weed. Pot. Mary Jane. Dank. Sticky Icky. Bud. Grass. Reefer. I am not sure if this is the best or worst one ever: The Devil’s Lettuce. Whatever you want to call it, cannabis is here. Let’s talk about it.

Here we go! The first post in the Cannabis section of Homestead and Chill. Who is excited about the upcoming growing season? Maybe it’s your first? There are so many thoughts, concepts, and tips I am eager to share with you all on this subject – whether you’re new to growing, more experienced, or don’t plan to grow at all, but are simply curious to learn more. If you are not a proponent of cannabis, that is totally fine. We can agree to disagree. But guess what? Cannabis has come out from hiding, and it is not going anywhere, so why don’t we just address it head on then? Even better – how about head on, and with an open mind? Keep reading. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I bet you’ll even learn something new.

For the record, we are no experts over here! Yet we have done a lot of research, played around with various methods, and have two pretty dang successful growing seasons under our belt. Our approach is 100% organic, as you probably imagined. As you may have also gathered, I hold a high importance on natural health, being extremely conscientious of what we use in our garden and put in or on our bodies. I also take time to thoroughly educate myself thoroughly about a subject before sharing it with you all, so please know that I don’t take this lightly.

Before we dive into the content many of you are probably most eager to read about – how to actually grow the stuff – I feel it’s best to start with a foundation post to introduce the subject. Let’s get some disclaimers out of the way, and cover the philosophy of how we view and use cannabis on this homestead.


This article will explore legality, stigma, medicinal and recreational uses, THC versus CBD, the difference between hemp and marijuana, and quality concerns surrounding cannabis.

D


Legality

Disclaimers:

Let’s get right to the point: Everything we are doing here, including growing cannabis at home, is 100% legal. Also known as The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMU), California’s Proposition 64 was voted into approval in November of 2016. Since its passing, each household here in California can now legally grow up to six cannabis plants for personal recreational use, expanding beyond the previous medicinal-only permitted use. People can also possess up to an ounce on their person when they’re outside of their home. If you have your medical card, you can grow and carry even more.

Another important disclaimer to get out of the way: No! Nothing is for sale here! We grow cannabis for our personal use only, and in part just because it’s fun and interesting to grow. Y’all know how much we love playing with plants! When we have extra or old stuff we give it to friends and family, or we compost it. Seriously. It’s just like any other plant in our garden. Sort of.

A man stands amongst very tall cannabis plants, smiling and looking up at them since they're much tall than he is. The setting is on a back yard garden patio, where there are also raised garden beds full of kale, sunflowers, a passionfruit around him. The sun is setting in the background.
See? Just another plant in our garden… Right along side the kale and passionfruit.



State Law

At the time of writing this, over half of the United States (33 states!) have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in one way or another. Commonly, those programs require a “patient” to get doctor’s recommendation or “scrip”. For a complete list of states where medicinal use is legal, click here.

Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in 10 states. This includes California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont, Alaska, Michigan, plus the District of Columbia and Guam. This means people in those states can grow, possess, or purchase cannabis without a doctor’s recommendation, though the circumstances and limits vary by state.

If you want to grow your own cannabis, please take time to do some research first! Educate yourself on the rules and regulations in your state. The last thing I want is anyone getting themselves into trouble! The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a state-by-state chart that outlines the medicinal regulations. It outlines the rules plus provides links to the statutory language for reference. The last column in their chart (on the far right) also has links to the adult use/recreational regulations.

You’ll need to do a little local research too. Even if medicinal or recreational use has been approved in your state, there may be varying and additional restrictions or requirements set forth by each county or town. It is my understanding that no local law can trump the state law by means of outright taking away your right to grow in a home that you own, or to personally possess or use cannabis, if it is permitted at the state level. At least that is the case in California.

However, local ordinances may do things like dictate that you can only grow indoors. Or, only in a permitted structure that meets certain setbacks and design features, like mechanisms for odor control. This means that within the same state, one town may allow outdoor growing, but the next town over only allows indoor growing. But they cannot take away your right to grow at all.

Local rules can also put limitations on businesses and have unique permitting, licensing, and tax requirements. This impacts not only cannabis businesses, but consumers as well. For example, despite statewide legalization, the majority of California cities and towns are not allowing retail cannabis storefronts within their jurisdiction (yet). Many are, but many more are not. That means that pot shops may not be as easily accessible for everyone, even in a legal state. We happen to live in what is the up-and-coming “pot country” of California, and is extremely cannabis-business friendly. But guess what? We don’t intend to buy much locally anyways. Instead, we prefer to grow our own. After reading the “quality control” section at the end of this article, you just may feel the same.



Federal Law

The cultivation, possession, or use of cannabis is still considered illegal by the United States Federal government, for now. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis remains labelled as a Schedule 1 “drug”. Right up there with heroin. Above cocaine, oxycodone, and methamphetamine, with those three being in the “less dangerous” and “more beneficial” classification – Schedule 2. The biggest difference between Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 is that the Federal Government does not recognize any medicinal benefits of those listed in Schedule 1, but does in some way for Schedule 2. Not only is this outrageously ridiculous (and we will talk about scientifically proven benefits of marijuana in a moment), but the discrepancy between the federal stance and state permissiveness on cannabis makes it very confusing and complicated for consumers, businesses and regulators.

Generally speaking, states have always had the constitutional right to make more stringent rules and regulations than those of the federal government, for example stronger environmental regulations, but not more lax, unless clearly stated in statute. The Supremacy Clause says that if a Federal Law explicitly prohibits something, and a conflicting state law allows it, the federal law trumps it. However, if you are in a state that has legalized cannabis and are following state rules, it is very unlikely local or even federal law enforcement will go after you.

Although cannabis remains a Schedule I drug, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment prohibits federal prosecution of individuals complying with state medical cannabis laws. This means medical marijuana users (patients), businesses, and care providers are protected, as long as they follow the rules of the state they are in. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment only extends to medicinal applications, not recreational.

A stock image of a prescription bill bottle dumped on its side, with nugs of marijuana spilling out instead of pills.
Medical Marijuana, photo courtesy of Earth Med

The real nexus of control that the federal government can hold on to is interstate commerce. If cannabis products or sales cross state lines, that puts it into federal jurisdiction and is significantly more enforceable. Thus, it is when you start thinking about shipping or traveling with cannabis that you need to proceed with caution. This also makes purchasing cannabis seeds online a tricky business. There are many companies who stealthily and discreetly sell seeds all over the world. Many such companies market the seeds as “souvenirs”, saying they are not intended be planted. They fail to include growing and germination information, thus getting around this loophole.



The Future of Cannabis

I say that cannabis is federally not legal yet, for now, because I truly bet I will have to update this article within the next couple of years to revise that statement. I mean, they’re still holding onto a regulation that was analyzed and enacted nearly 50 years ago! Times have changed, information and awareness about the benefits of cannabis have improved, tolerance has evolved, and the spreading legalization is coming on hard and fast.

Very recently, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E), the anti-drug curriculum that we all grew up with, finally removed cannabis from its list of gateway drugs. Just last October, Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis outright. Way to go, Canada! I predict our Feds won’t hold out much longer either. The opportunity to tax the industry is too real of a benefit for the government to deny it much longer.


Speaking of taxes, let’s take a peek the benefits of legalization.

A stock image of a cannabis leaf laying over a dollar bill. George Washington peers out from behind the cannabis leaf.
Image Courtesy of The Washington Examiner


Benefits of Legalizing Cannabis:

There are many benefits to legalizing cannabis. Some are obvious. Such as increasing the access and availability of a very useful plant to those who need or desire its benefits. The use of marijuana will allow some people to heal, cope, sleep, laugh, and relax. People will be enabled to move away from dangerous, highly-addictive controlled substances like certain prescription pharmaceuticals.

Other benefits are more complex and far-reaching than individual use and well-being. Consider these additional impacts of legalizing cannabis, as outlined by the Drug Policy Alliance:

Reduce harm: The criminalization of marijuana use disproportionately harms young people and people of color, sponsors massive levels of violence and corruption, and fails to curb youth access.

Create jobs: Legalizing and regulating marijuana will bring one of the nation’s largest cash crops under the rule of law. This will create jobs and economic opportunities in the formal economy instead of the illicit market.

Save money: Scarce law enforcement resources will be better used to ensure public safety while reducing corrections and court costs. State and local governments would acquire significant new sources of tax revenue from regulating marijuana sales.

Promote consumer safety: Marijuana product testing is becoming a standard requirement for legalized marijuana markets. This means consumers are better informed about the marijuana they use.

Drug Policy Alliance – Marijuana Legalization and Regulation

I am seeing some of these benefits in our county already. My department alone has been able to hire several new staff people to handle the proper evaluation and permitting of the dozens of commercial cannabis applications currently streaming in. I too am involved in this work. Operations now under permit are being required to come into compliance with everything from their building structures to employee standards and housing. They must address adequate water systems, septic systems, and other environmental impacts.

Instead of illegally tapping into water systems or drilling bogus wells, damming and diverting water from streams, dumping waste fertilizer and pesticides on the ground, or causing fire hazards by living and camping in substandard housing, they’re being forced to do it right, from A to Z.  Just like any other legitimate business.



Breaking the Stigma

Burn out. Lazy. Stoner. Idiot. Space cadet. Criminal.

There are so many negative connotations and stereotypes that come along when people choose to partake in cannabis use. 90% of the time, they’re completely inaccurate. This is becoming exceedingly true as legalization has enabled the increased use of cannabis by everyday people, from all walks of life. Grandmothers with Parkinson’s. Dentists with aching joints. Your child’s classmate that has epilepsy. Your trusty mailman, who just needs to unwind after a long day on the road. People who believe the cynical stigmas may not expect a girl who began smoking pot in junior high* to go on to graduate as the valedictorian of her high school class, obtain a Masters degree from Brown University, and later work as a respected professional for her local government. All while using cannabis on occasion, to fairly regularly. Guess who?

*Note: I do not condone underage use of marijuana, unless needed for medical purposes. Studies do show negative impacts of THC to still-developing adolescent brains. I think I turned out okay though.

A blonde woman in a black and floral jumpsuit stands between two cannabis plants, on a back yard garden patio. The plants are in large fabric grow bags of 25 gallon size. The plants are still young, and only about four feet tall. Since they're in large bags, they are already taller than the woman.
Did you guess who?


I remember when I first “came out” about our cannabis use on social media. Very clearly, thank you. It was early 2017, a few months after the passing of Prop 64. We had begun growing our first crops at home. I felt a desire to open up and share what we were doing and why on Instagram. In part to help dispel some of the very stigma I am writing about now, but also because we weren’t exactly going to be able to hide it much longer. I frequently share photos and videos of our garden spaces. It was only a matter of time until the massive plants were spotted.

Rather than brush over the topic or wait and see if anyone commented, I decided to address the elephant in the room head on. And instead of being all like “Hey guys, we grow weed! Cool, huh?” I knew I needed to put together a very direct and poignant post to express my stance on the subject.

When I got ready to hit the“share” button, my heart was pounding. I was so anxious, nervous, and excited all at once. What would people say? How much hate would I receive? Yep, I definitely lost some followers, but guys, the positive response was overwhelming! It was beyond what I expected. It was touching, empowering, heart warming, and some of it also heart-breaking.

Over 200 responses poured in, which was a lot for me at that time. People opened up about their personal health struggles and how cannabis helps them cope. Or about their loved ones with cancer, and how cannabis was the only thing that brought that person comfort during their treatments, or during the end. There were also some very sad stories about how people were banished from their families or social circles for using cannabis. It is so unfortunate to witness such harsh judgement and extreme reactions around the use of a natural, generally very mellow, safe, and uplifting plant. Meanwhile, people have beers with friends and family, get behind the wheel, and no one says anything.


My cannabis “coming out” post via Instagram, June 2017:

“I’ve been struggling to put together the words to convey my thoughts on cannabis for this, my first overtly open post on the subject. Then the other day I was reading through the TIME magazine special edition “Marijuana Goes Main Street”, along with some online articles about organic no-till growing practices (what we are employing here), and came across a few excellent passages that helped tie it all together for me.

“If there was a single moment that crystallized the nation’s new openness to marijuana, it arrived on August 8th, 2013. That was the day CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta publicly changed his position on pot. Gupta, one of the nation’s most trusted physicians, spent months researching the science of medical marijuana for a documentary called Weed. An outspoken pot skeptic, Gupta had written a story four years earlier for TIME magazine headlined Why I Would Vote No On Pot.

The evidence he uncovered in Weed forced him to reverse himself. He did so in a stunning mea culpa. “I am here to apologize” he wrote on CNN’s website. “I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. In fact, the DEA had no such proof“. Though the government continues to deny it, marijuana has “very legitimate medical applications” he wrote. “In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.” Bruce Barcott, TIME

My mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer on Tuesday, during her first day of chemo treatment in fact. Long story. She was previously diagnosed with “stage 0” DCIS and was scheduled for chemo to help treat that. That day, the results of a lymph node biopsy came back showing more advanced stages of HER 2+. She uses various forms of cannabis to help kill cancer cells on the local site, to sleep, to reduce the chemo side effects she’s already experiencing. And to simply take the edge off. I need to take the edge off too. I’ve been a basket case lately.

And that’s not even getting into the other conditions cannabis positively effects such as arthritis, epilepsy, Crohn’s, IBS, PTSD, anxiety, MS, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, Tourettes, and so on.

Tommy Chong, currently battling rectal cancer (from TIME magazine): “The main thing about pot is that it affects your mental state. Instead of moaning and groaning about what you have, you start listening to music and reading books, and you get very creative. It takes the brain off “the glass is half empty” and puts it on “the glass is half full”.

I wholeheartedly agree, Tommy. Y’all want to know a secret, since we’re laying it all out there? I get these questions all the time – Are you a landscape designer? Are you trained in this stuff? Where do you get your ideas? How did you come up with that design? The truth is: I get stoney and cruise around the garden admiring our work, and new ideas just come. Then I sit down and draw.

In connection to gardening and our sustainable or health-conscious lifestyle:

“The organic lifestyle is gaining monumental popularity thanks to food and farming education. The world is leaning towards more natural practices in all industries, demanding big pharma, corporations and mass farming to exercise local, organic and sustainable philosophies. And now that recreational cannabis is legalizing at a rapid rate, it only makes sense that the demands of the consumers will affect supply and manufacturing practices. The days of stoners smoking mystery bud in their basements is long gone. Today’s cannabis consumer is educated, health-conscious, and wide-ranging. While no two tokers are alike, there is a growing movement for more health-focused pot products. Customers want cannabis that hasn’t been leached with chemicals, without a heavy carbon footprint and without mysterious ingredients and/or manufacturing practices.” – Samantha Lyn Chan, PotGuide.com

Thus, we’re growing our own for the first time ~ Strains to suits our needs, taking pride in the process and effort it takes (major kudos to Aaron here), and the comfort of knowing exactly how it has been treated from “bean-to-bowl”. We protect our lungs by using a vaporizer (a Firefly 2+), even though there hasn’t been any scientific studies that can link smoking pot to lung cancer.

Not that I need to justify or defend myself, and I realize people are going to pass judgment regardless, but we clearly aren’t burn-outs here. We indulge on non-work nights. Not to boast – but because I am proud to a part of a movement that is breaking down stigmas and stereotypes – I would like to point out that I am highly educated, motivated, successful, active, healthy, stable, and happy. Also for the record, I am not here to start heavily advocating cannabis on Instagram or plan to feature it regularly in my posts, so if you’re not a fan of it, don’t worry I am not shoving it down your throat. To each their own!

Y’all know my life motto, right? “We all have just ONE life to live, however we please. You do you, I’ll do me, and let us all respect and appreciate those differences”. I just don’t want to try to hide our 6-foot plants in photos or videos if they happen to be in the shot, and not acknowledge the elephant in the room! And sure, there is potential for misuse or abuse, bad reactions, accidents, and poor decisions…. Just like with anything else in life. Enter: widely used, available, and legal – alcohol. Enough said. Everything in moderation folks.”

@deannacat3

Looking down into a back yard patio garden. Three large cannabis plants are in fabric grow bags. There is also a table on a colorful rug, an apple tree, fire pit, aloe vera plants, and other garden beds around the patio.
The first image of our cannabis I shared on Insta, June 2017


So that was the post. It was extremely liberating to share. Yet I realize that many of you may not be able to be so open about about it (yet), depending on where you live or the social norms of the people in your life. I feel very fortunate in that regard. The subject of cannabis has become so openly talked about and accepted in our home, family, social circles, neighborhood, town, and even our workplaces that I almost feel silly writing all of this. The vast majority of people I know do not think in the negative ways I mentioned. Many of you living in legal states are probably in the same boat.

However, I know a huge portion of the country is still very misled and inadequately educated about the topic. Cannabis needs to be more openly discussed! The more we talk about it, the more we share, the more we learn, the more we can break the stigma.

In the spirit of continuing the conversation in the right direction, let’s talk about the medicinal uses.



Cannabis as Medicine

Cannabis has been shown to help reduce or eliminate undesirable symptoms associated with dozens of health issues. It has the ability to reduce pain, fight inflammation, ease muscle tension, improve mood, and combat nausea. These applications make it particularly effective in providing comfort and reducing weight loss for people battling cancer, going through chemotherapy, or the like. I don’t think most people out there would judge or argue with a person lighting up in that situation, if that is what helps them. According to the Harvard Health Blog, “about 85% of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, and it is estimated that at least several million Americans currently use it.”

As a fantastic muscle relaxant, patients with Parkinson’s disease rely on cannabis to reduce their tremors. Along those same lines, it has been reported to ease discomfort associated with fibromyalgia, endometriosis, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. For nerve pain, like that comes along with multiple sclerosis, cannabis is often times the thing that provides the most relief – while enabling the person to not feel overly “doped up” as they would on the otherwise prescription opioids, allowing the person to move away from those strong and addictive pain medications.

Depending on the strain of cannabis used, it can either help boost mood, creativity, and energy – great for someone with depression – or can help induce a very relaxed, mellow, sleepy state – perfect for a person trying to curb the effects of their anxiety, PTSD, or insomnia. Pain relief comes in the form of cannabis for people with painful symptoms of HIV like neuropathy, and can make up for loss of appetite.

Unfortunately, because of the federal stance on marijuana, the support and use of scientific studies to “prove” all of these benefits have been significantly underutilized or downright prohibited in the past. Consumer experiences and personal reports of the benefits are substantial, but clinical research is behind. As cannabis becomes more accepted, the studies are increasing, and their results are indeed promising. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at University of California San Diego is spearheading studies that are confirming the suspected benefits as true.

In early 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine completed a comprehensive review of over 10,000 scientific studies on marijuana health research.  In their final report, the committee made 100 conclusions related to health. Many of the health applications we are discussing today are already falling into the section showing “conclusive and substantial evidence” for therapeutic benefits. Some only have “moderate” or “limited” evidence, but again, that is mostly because the studies themselves have been limited. That doesn’t mean future studies won’t confirm it.

It isn’t the obvious medical benefits and dire circumstances, like our cancer patient example, that make cannabis use so controversial however. A big part of the resistance may be that so many people still view it as “getting high”. I am not sure why this is such a concern, since many of those same people enjoy a buzz from alcohol, or are okay with the use of pain medication. That frustrating hypocrisy aside… Maybe they aren’t aware of CBD?

A close up of a marijuana leaf. One half is a different color than the other. One side of the photo says "THC" and shows the molecular drawing for it. The other side says CBD and shows its molecular drawing. The image is just supposed to represent that CBD and THC have a different chemical make up.
Image from Rx Canna Care



CBD – Relief without the “high”

Cannabidiol, aka, CBD is one of the many active compounds found in cannabis. It is commonly extracted into concentrated forms. CBD has little-to-no intoxicating effects, unlike the other main active compound in cannabis – THC. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, and is responsible for the mental or body “high” that most people associate with consuming cannabis. Different strains of cannabis have varying concentrations of CBD and THC. Some are all THC and no CBD, some fifty-fifty, some high CBD and hardly any THC at all, and everything in between.

One of the more remarkable examples of just how powerful the medicinal properties of CBD can be is the effect it has on people with epilepsy. Namely, Dravet’s epilepsy, a very severe and debilitating form. One particular strain of cannabis has been extremely effective at curbing the frequent seizures associated with the disease. It makes life actually livable for those otherwise completely burdened by it. That strain is Charlotte’s Web. It was named after the little girl that it first was documented to help. Help is an understatement. Without it, Charlotte was going to “live” in a medically induced coma because her seizures had become so life-threatening. Charlotte’s Web is a high-CBD, very low-THC strain. Prior to CBD, she was experiencing hundreds of seizures a week, despite endless therapies and medications. With CBD, her seizures immediately reduced to less than one per week on average.

If you’re in interested in watching Charlotte’s story, which spearheaded the acceptance of medicinal marijuana use for children with epilepsy, see this video:

Video courtesy of Medical Cannabis Costa Rica and CNN



So does that mean I can rely on CBD alone for comfort?  


Maybe! Maybe not.

Marijuana-derived CBD on its own can ease inflammation, seizures, psychosis, inflammatory bowel disease, nausea, migraines, depression, and anxiety. Cleary, it can help with a lot. I say marijuana-derived because it is markedly different than hemp-derived CBD, which we will talk about in a moment. Few side effects are reported with CBD use. CBD is also celebrated because it can be used with ease in everyday life in a variety of situations, including while at work. THC use is more limiting in that regard. This makes CBD products very attractive, effective, popular, and low-risk to use! However, some cannabis users find the greatest effects and benefits when they consume both CBD and THC together.



THC uses and benefits

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been well documented to help with everything that CBD does, with the exception of seizures. Furthermore, THC also reduces insomnia, muscle spasms, low appetite, and helps with glaucoma. While some people consider the altered mental state a negative effect of THC, some seek it out. This is particularly true for stress, anxiety, and depression relief.

Note that some strains of cannabis do better or worse at improving these symptoms. Consumers need to find a strain that works for them. Strains on the high-Sativa spectrum can bring feelings of euphoria and happiness. They can also cause anxiety and feel too “racy” for some people. On the other end of the spectrum, Indica-leaning strains feel too sluggish and demotivating for some, depending on their objective for use. We prefer strains that are a cross of both. I wrote this post dedicated to the differences between Indica and Sativa plants, if you’re interested to learn more! A recent study completed by the University of New Mexico suggests that higher levels of THC contribute to more symptom relief than CBD alone.

Two very tall homegrown cannabis plants are swaying in the wind. They're starting to fill out with flowers or buds, but still are very lush with dark green leaves. They are taller than the house also shown in the photo.
Nothing beats the whole plant, in my humble opinion. Look at our big beautiful Maui Wowie girls! Maui Wowie is an amazing, energetic but mellow, sativa-leaning, medium-THC and high-CBD strain. One of our go-to favorites.



Whole Plant Cannabis

When you put both CBD and THC together, you get much more effective and obvious results, referred to the “entourage effect”. This hypothesis, popularized by Dr. Ethan Russo, proposes that both cannabinoids function synergistically to give it pharmacological properties to increase the healing effects. It isn’t quite as simple as one-plus-one however. Most of the research and discussions around the benefits of cannabis, this article included (so far), focus solely on THC and/or CBD. But cannabis as a whole has dozens of other active compounds and types of cannabinoids within it, like terpenes and flavonoids, that all work synergistically together to bring relief.

Project CBD is a California non-profit that is dedicated to promoting and publicizing research on CDB. They say: “We recommend CBD-rich products made using only organic, whole plant cannabis because this offers the best safety profile and superior medicinal benefits.

This is where some hemp-based CBD products fall particularly short, as opposed marijuana-based CBD extracts. Yes, there is a difference.



Hemp-based CBD versus Marijuana-based CBD

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana anyways? Both hemp and marijuana are species of the cannabis family, but they are far from being created equal. Hemp is most often used as an industrial, sustainable resource for textiles, biofuels, and building materials. The hemp plant itself contains very, very little THC (no more than .3%) while marijuana rings in with an average concentration of 15 to 40% THC.

Because of its low THC concentrations, hemp is legal in most parts of the world. Therefore, you may see “CBD” products popping up all over the place! You may find them on the counter of your corner convenience store or in the supplement aisle of your your local supermarket. Flip the bottle over. Read it. It probably says “hemp-derived” or “extracted from hemp” somewhere on it. This is not necessarily the medical grade stuff. Marijuana-derived CBD oils and tinctures are only for sale in legit pot shops.


Where hemp-based CBD can fall short:

  • One: The CBD concentrations in hemp-based extracts are usually extremely low and thus virtually ineffective for therapeutic uses. Hemp oil contains traces of CBD around 3.5 percent, while marijuana based CBD oil can have up to 20 percent. One article I read something along the lines of “Just think of hemp CBD as a health supplement or vitamin, high in potassium and magnesium, and the bud-based products as pharmaceutical grade”.
  • Two: Hemp-based CBD and refined CBD powders are often times missing those important complimentary compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids found in marijuana that interact with THC and CBD to enhance their medicinal benefit. However, these compounds are found in marijuana-based cannabis oil products.
  • Three: Hemp is a bio-accumulator plant – meaning it is very good at taking up toxins from the soil.  Because hemp is so low in CBD, it takes processing and concentrating exorbitant amounts of it to result in a usable CBD product. Much less marijuana is needed to create CBD extracts. In the process, it also amplifies and concentrates everything else found in hemp, including any contaminants, fertilizers, or toxins the plant has been storing.
  • NOTE: Not all “hemp” is created equal! Some modern hemp strains grown for medicinal CBD extraction are cross-bred or hybridized (not GMO) with low-THC strains of marijuana. These types of hemp will grow shorter and stockier than the image below, more closely resembling marijuana. They may also also contain a higher profile of terpenes and other beneficial cannabinoids than traditional hemp. There are some high quality hemp-based CBD products out there! Do you best to research their quality and contents. I’d say it’s safe to gander that the stuff on the counter at the gas station doesn’t fall into this exceptional category.

A side by side comparison of hemp versus marijuana. The hemp plants are tall and lanky, and yellow looking. The marijuana plants are shorter, bushier, dark green, and have fatter leaves.
Industrial hemp on the left, marijuana on the right. Photo from Ministry of Hemp


In summary, because CBD doesn’t “get you high” and is thus less controversial, it is getting most of the media attention and hype right now. It has definite health benefits, particularly marijuana derived-CBD. The fact that you’re able to remain clear-headed makes it attractive and flexible in its use. However, increasing research is coming out that THC has overall stronger and more therapeutic benefits for those in need.


Speaking of getting high….



Cannabis for Recreation

I use cannabis for many of the therapeutic benefits described above: muscle and joint pain, insomnia, menstrual cramps, to name a few. To be frank, I also like to “get high” sometimes.  The thing is though, I don’t see the need to make such a clear distinction and judgement between medicinal and recreational use. Sure, there is an absolute, undeniable difference between someone like Charlotte who depends on weed to live a functional life, and someone who is otherwise “healthy” but likes to toke up on the weekend. But if we start talking about mental well being, stress, anxiety, and less-severe but annoying aches and pains, I see recreational and medicinal cannabis as one in the same. Because guess what? Those types of “medical conditions” apply to damn near everyone.


Rec·re·a·tion (noun)

According to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary, recreation is defined as:

refreshment of strength and spirits after work

also : a means of refreshment or diversion : Hobby

Recreation consists of things you do in your spare time to relax

Synonyms: dalliance, frolic, frolicking, fun, fun and games, play, relaxation, rollicking, sport

Meriam-Webster, on recreation


Also defined by Meriam-Webster is:

Health (noun)

Definition of health

1a: the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit

especially : freedom from physical disease or pain

Meriam-Webster, on health


If I am reading this all correctly: recreation is something that refreshes your strength and spirit; health is a condition of a sound body, mind, and spirit. Thus, participating in recreation leads to improved health and positive well-being. The two are directly connected. In this line of thought, by using cannabis recreationally to improve spirits, unwind, and maybe even frolick (I love that synonym for recreation!) in the garden after work contributes to personal wellness. Plus, you get the benefits of pain relief and improved sleep? Sounds like medicine to me, no matter how you cut it. Just as “let thy medicine be thy food, and thy food be thy medicine”.

Maybe you can tell, and if you know me “in real life”, you know… I have a natural tendency to be ON. I am wound rather tight. A total type A, on the go, brain won’t stop, can’t sit still, will work myself to death if I allow it. Cannabis brings me much needed balance. It helps me switch my brain from over-analyzing to stop-and-appreciating. It enhances my mood and creativity, and enables me to chill the hell out.

A hand holds a trimmed bud of organic homegrown cannabis. It has little orange hairs and crystals.
Homegrown medicine. Homegrown recreation. Same same. 100% organic.

As I mentioned in my “coming out” post, I was under the influence of cannabis while I designed all of our garden spaces. Some strains we use are more uplifting for that type of work and play. We also grow strains that are more sleepy or have a nice mellow comedown. These allow me to sleep deeply and soundly, while I otherwise toss and turn and wake up a lot. Good sleep is also directly related to overall health.  

No, we aren’t stoned all the time. Far from it. Cannabis is just one form of fun and relaxation in our recreation portfolio. We love yoga, reading, walking on the beach, going to the gym, hiking, biking, and obviously, gardening. Kitty-therapy too! Oh and music. We can’t forget the music. Because while cannabis has all of these potential positive impacts, I also believe in balance and moderation. Particularly if we are talking about THC use. This article would not be complete and fair if I didn’t also mention some of the possible negative effects of cannabis use.


Negative effects

In regards to negative side effects from cannabis use, THC is more often the guilty party over CBD.  Overindulgence can lead to dizziness, nausea, and vomiting for some, especially if you’re already physically exhausted or dehydrated. It can also cause feelings of anxiousness, chest tightness, shaking, or paranoia. Yep, some people just don’t do well with THC. Of all the reports and papers I read in doing my research for this article, the negative side effects were far less extraordinary and common than the positive ones though. Significantly worse and long-ranging impacts will result from the regular consumption of sugar, processed food, and saturated fats than those from cannabis.

There has been no research that I am aware of that suggests cannabis use can lead to the development of cancer, or other chronic illness. On the contrary, it has been shown to kill or slow the spread of cancer cells. Of course, common sense will tell us that the frequent inhalation of any combustible substance into your lungs probably isn’t the best idea. Using oils, edibles, tinctures, and vaporizers greatly reduces or eliminates the impact on the lungs.

I personally believe that many of the unfortunate experiences (and therefore lasting impressions) people have with cannabis is because they smoked mystery bud. Or, they tried the wrong strain for their desired outcome. If you smoked a few times in high school or college, felt paranoid and crummy, and never smoked again in your life, you likely have a very skewed opinion on what “being high” is actually like. Pot has come a long way. Different strains, breeding, indica or sativa influence, and THC and CBD concentrations all influence the user experience. The options are seriously limitless. To read more about the differences between sativa, indica, and even learn about autoflower cannabis plants, check out this post.

Speaking of concentrations, another culprit of bad experiences is in the dose. Particularly with concentrates and edibles, it is really easy to overdo it. We have definitely made ourselves ill with homemade edibles in the past. As a consumer, make sure to inquire about the potency and dosage of an edible product. This is especially important if you are new to using edibles or concentrates. Or if there isn’t clear labelling on the product as there should be. Start small. Also, never just blindly purchase seeds or products. Read reviews. Do research on the kinds of strains you’d like to grow or purchase at the dispensary. Find what is right for you!

While pure cannabis itself may not pose a risk for chronic disease, that doesn’t mean we should all toke up without heeding caution. What about other substances that may be IN and ON the cannabis? As the countries largest up-and-coming cash crop, the cannabis industry and resulting products have a serious potential to get nasty.

A cannabis leaf is shown in the foreground, looking down from above. Behind the leaf you can see the fabric pot or bag that the marijuana plant is growing in. The mulch on the soil is colorful, with yellow yarrow flowers, lavender buds, and green leaves of comfrey chopped up on top.
Do you know what is on your medicine? In its soil? In its veins? How about some compost, lavender buds, comfrey, yarrow, worm casting, organic alfalfa and kelp meal? One could only hope.



Concerns about Quality

Wait, what did you say about hazardous materials?

In my professional life outside this blog and homestead, I am an Environmental Health Specialist. It is my job to review any proposed map, development plan, subdivision, or conditional use of land in the county – from an environmental and public health perspective. Guess what 95% of the cases currently sitting on my desk are for? Commercial cannabis operations. We are talking several new permit applications coming in every week.

These proposals include everything from the legalization of previously illegal operations, to new hoop house and greenhouse grow operations. Also included are drying and processing facilities, CBD oil extraction facilities, and edible storefronts. I told you, our county is gearing up to be one of the most cannabis business-friendly places in the state. While it is amazing to be a part of the progress in the cannabis industry, and there are so many stellar benefits that go along with these changes, there is also some fairly scary shit going down.

One of the conditions that I am putting on almost every single project is to obtain a permit with our hazardous materials unit, due to the intense use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers proposed. Also, a referral to the State Water Board for a waste discharge permit. Though there are a handful of very clean and natural operations out there, like those utilizing neem oil and beneficial bacteria, most are not.

In most cases, the plants are being sprayed with chemicals. The plants are also being watered with chemicals. All of that is being taken up into the plants vascular system, and in to the buds. So much so, it is standard practice in the industry to require a “flushing” period. This is where the plants root ball and soil is repeatedly flushed with water for about two weeks prior to harvesting. The purpose is to help rid the plants of built up chemicals and salts. If they don’t flush, the bud burns really harsh and tastes unpleasant. Hmm… I wonder why? Yuck.


We aren’t all that familiar with flushing since we don’t need to employ it here at home. When I was reading up on it, I came across this badass quote:

When Not to Flush Cannabis Plants:

“The only time flushing is not encouraged is when you are growing in amended organic soil. This is because your soil already holds all the nutrients the plants need to thrive. By flooding the soil, you can wash away and damage the complex ecosystem that you’ve worked so hard to develop in the soil itself. Furthermore, these plants almost always receive pure water during waterings. The nutrient uptake by plants in this environment is natural, diverse, and easy for the plant to process.”

Leafly, Flushing Cannabis Plants


That is how we roll.

Just because the big growers flush the plants to remove some of the junk, that doesn’t make their practices okay in my opinion. I do not want to consume stuff that needs flushing, period. Recent lab tests of California cannabis show that 1 in 5 samples failed in pesticide testing. Results either showed the presence of pesticides that are outright not allowed, or other pesticides were present at levels exceeding the allowable threshold.

Even if the end product does pass its tests and is a little “cleaner” now, that entire growing and flushing process is intensive, toxic, wasteful, and unnecessary. Someone who works in the pot industry or grows in this more conventional manner will probably chime in here and say, “It is necessary! We need ABC process to get XYZ result in blah-blah-blah conditions in zero amount of time!”. My point is, you CAN grow good, quality, dank bud without all that junk. Is it as quick, easy, high-yielding, efficient, and cost-effective? Maybe not. But as conscious consumers, we need to ask ourselves: What is more important? Quantity, or quality? Hmm… this beginning to sound a lot like another industry I feel passionately about.


Cannabis as Big Ag

Just like in today’s intensive food agriculture system, if profit is the goal, quality and safety is most often jeopardized. Monsanto and Round-Up dominates the conventional farming operations in this country. As usual, the company is under extreme scrutiny right now. Round-Up’s active ingredient glyphosate, a known carcinogen, was recently found to be present in every breakfast cereal tested and marketed to children. The reported levels were exceeding the Environmental Working Group’s health benchmark. Isn’t that absolutely disgusting? We do not buy or consume inorganic food. Nor do we use weed killers in our garden, or grow our own food with chemical fertilizers like Miracle Grow. We are extremely aware, and maybe even a little paranoid, about what we ingest. To us, cannabis is exactly the same.

Well guess who just invested $1.8 billion dollars in a Canadian cannabis company last December? Altria, the parent company for Marlboro. It is just a matter of time that they start buying out a lot of the smaller cannabis operations and implement their own practices. Some little guys (hopefully those with stronger values and safer practices!) will hold out, but I’m sure many will sell out to Altria (or similar) too. No offense Altria, but you don’t necessarily have a track record for peddling health-promoting products… This entire situation is even more devastating for people that are relying on cannabis as medicine. They’re looking to it for healing, but are getting a dose of poison along with it instead.

The point of this section is NOT to terrify you. Not all cannabis is as gnarly as I am making it out to be. My intention it simply raise awareness. Just because pot shops may be popping up in your neighborhood, either now or in the coming years, it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to shop there. If you do, ask questions! Just like food, we all have to make educated and conscious decisions as to what we choose to support, buy, and put in our bodies.

The photo shows a close up of an organic marijuana leaf, with a ladybug perched on the tip of the leaf.
It’s okay Miss ladybug. You’re safe here.



Organic Options

With the lack of federal involvement, some states are starting to develop their own organic certifications. Keep your eyes and ears open for those in your state! For example, within California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act, there is a mandate for the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to create an organic cannabis program by 2021. “Create” is a loose term though. In my experience working with government, actually implementing and enforcing a functioning system will take years beyond that date.


So what should I do to protect myself?

Until then, obtain products from reputable, trusted sellers that can openly and honestly answer your questions and address your concerns. Supporting local, small businesses is all the better. Request information on any pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, or any other products used in the growing process. See if they have those test results available to view, along with any mold or fungus tests. If you are in a state that has legalized medical use, get your card! That way you’ll have access to be best products, or….


…If you’re up for it (and legally able to)
Grow your own!
I want to help show you how, organically.

A series of posts are on the way to guide you through. Then you’ll have the peace of mind to know exactly how your cannabis was treated, from bean to bowl! If you want to get a jump start, feel free to check out some of these supplies we use to grow cannabis at home.

(Update: A how-to-grow post has since been added to start you on the homegrown cannabis journey.)

Until then, I hope you have found this an interesting, thought-provoking read! Please share it with anyone you think would also benefit from this perspective. Together, let’s keep breaking down that stigma. Thank you for reading!




28 Comments

  • Andrea

    Very well written! I am from Colorado, my mom has been smoking marijuana for 40 years, and now at almost sixty,she still does not take even one daily medication! Also, she was legally blind as a young adult and over the years her eye sight has gotten better and better, to where she doesn’t even wear glasses all the time?! Not sure why, but I guess it’s the weed! I work in the health field in Arkansas now, where it is not legal. The list of medications that people take just blow my mind and makes me sad. Medications to correct side effects from other medications. I am excited for the future of medicinal marijuana, and hope the entire country jumps on board quickly! Thank you for this post, I learned a lot about CBD oils!
    Happy gardening!

  • Starla

    Great article. As someone is in their infancy of learning about Cannabis I throughly enjoyed it. Any plans to discuss starting your own growing information, such as where to purchase seeds, tips for optimal growing, etc?

  • Tim

    Thank you for this detailed information. As we continue to grow as a state and country I would be interested in hearing about any growers or companies you would recommend as “green” cannabis operations.

    On a separate note, I would love to hear a more in-depth explanation and thought process about your no till practices.

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