I recently returned from sunny Pasadena California where I attended the large medical cannabis conference called CannMed. It was on September 23 and 24, 2019. Here is a summary of 5 very interesting things I learned from this conference: the “take away” messages that changed the way I think about Cannabis.
This article contains my interpretations of what I heard and understood from the conference. If you are one of the speakers I am paraphrasing, and I’ve misunderstood you in some way, please let me know by leaving a comment below.
And to try and help you learn as best I can, I’ve provided an embedded video from the presenter’s talks to really help visual and auditory learners.
1. Dr. David Meiri’s point about Cannabis doesn’t work stunningly well for any one symptom…it’s the accumulation of small improvements of many symptoms that keeps patients using it.
This is my interpretation of what he was getting at, and honestly I think it was most powerful thing I heard over the two days at the conference.
He said in Israel they have one spot where patients get their medical cannabis. And they have thousands of patients who come every month to pick up their cannabis for medical use.
But when they studied cannabis for pain, he said it really didn’t work very well.
He said in their study, about 45% of patients received about a 25% reduction in pain.
So this is looking at just one symptom – just one “study outcome”.
And Dr. Meiri claimed in pain studies they usually consider a 30% reduction in pain actually ‘meaning something.’
If only 45% of patients were getting only a “slight” 25% reduction in pain, why were the patients coming back month after month?
He said it was because those same patients also:
- Had a small reduction in their anxiety.
- They had a small improvement in their mood.
- They were sleeping better
And overall, these small improvements of many symptoms improved the patient’s quality of life.
It changed the way people ‘felt’ or ‘thought’ about their pain. They dealt with their pain better. It didn’t overwhelm or consume them anymore.
Video of Dr. Meiri’s talk
At about the 34:30 mark of the video is where Dr. Meiri starts talking about this particular topic.
2. Dr. Dustin Sulak said patients can use the psychoactive effects of THC to their advantage
I know when patients come see me for medical cannabis consultations the first thing they usually say is “I don’t want to get high.”
They are reluctant to use THC for fear of getting high or stoned.
What most of the presenters at this conference said though, was that…
people are still really caught up in the decades of stigma against Cannabis.
That is often what they are scared of. What will my friends think? What will my family think?
But Dr. Sulak brought up a very good point. He said as health professionals in the medical cannabis industry –
We should be asking patients:
Do you want to sleep better?
Do you want to laugh a little more?
Do you want to enjoy and savour the little things in life a little more?
If you said yes to these questions, then you should consider THC.
Think about harnessing the mind effects of THC for the good.
This mind shift definitely made me think of THC differently.
Video of Dr. Dustin Sulak’s presentation
3. Dr. Bonnie Goldstein talking about the huge range of doses she has seen patients benefit from
Everyone wants to know, “what dose should I take of CBD or THC?”
“How much do I need?”
Then as health professionals we say, “Well you need to start low and go slow.”
But they respond, “Yeah sure, but just tell me what dose I need for _____ condition.”
To address issues about dosing there was a panel of doctors discussing dosing. They were all very informative.
One particular story from Dr. Bonnie Goldstein really stuck with me and drove this point home.
2 Patients – Same Condition – Vastly Different CBD Doses
She said she once treated an autistic boy who was using CBD.
He was using only 4mg of CBD per day.
That is a very low dose of CBD.
So low in fact, Dr. Goldstein basically thought ‘how could this be working.’
But the 4mg dose was helping. They tried increasing the dose to see if it worked better.
The boy couldn’t tolerate the higher dose. He needed to stay at 4mg per day. That was “his dose.”
Then she described another boy with autism that needed 400mg of CBD twice daily to see results.
So this other boy needed 800mg of CBD per day!
Such an amazing range of doses that different patients needed to achieve results.
To learn more about Dr. Bonnie Goldstein click here to go her website.
Video of Dr. Goldstein mentioning this during the Dosing Panel
In case the video doesn’t cue up at the right time, fast forward to around 31:30 mark and this is where Dr. Goldstein mentions the large range of doses she has seen in practice.
4. Dr. Staci Gruber’s research into the brain and executive functioning in Adult Medical Cannabis users (MIND studies)
Almost all of the information we hear about cannabis and its effects on the brain come from studies about “recreational” cannabis users.
These studies show us that recreational cannabis users generally have poorer cognitive performance. Their thinking brains don’t “work as well.”
And generally speaking, the earlier onset of using cannabis (so starting at a younger age), using it more frequently, and using more of it leads to more noticeable changes to cognitive performance.
But these are recreational users. People who are usually looking to get high or stoned.
What about medical cannabis users? How are their brains and performance affected by cannabis?
This is what Dr. Gruber and her MIND study wanted to find out. MIND stands for
MARIJUANA INVESTIGATIONS FOR NEUROSCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY
To read a published study from the MIND study click here.
She brought up an interesting point:
Cannabis is Cannabis. It doesn’t care what you’re using it for.
The plant and the products may be the same, but the users themselves are different.
Medical cannabis users tend to be over 25 years old (unless pediatric patients), and their GOAL of using cannabis is different.
A medical cannabis patient is looking to improve some medical symptoms or condition: not to get high or stoned.
I’m not going to claim that I know all the ins and outs of the brain tests and brains scans she was referring to, but the take home message was that her studies are showing that medical cannabis patients are actually having an improvement in executive function (brains working better).
The medical cannabis patients are showing improvements in certain brain performance tests such as MSIT performance tests, and even brain imaging studies are showing positive changes to the physical structure of the brain.
Plus, the medical cannabis patients in her studies showed improvements in depression, sleep, impulse control and quality of life.
And many of the patients in her studies were able to decrease their usage of other prescription medications like opioids and benzodiazepines.
I think her study and studies like this will help to break the stigma that medical cannabis users are worsening or wrecking their brains.
This could be a real game-changer in how we think about medical cananbis and medical cannabis users.
To learn more about Dr. Gruber and her work click here.
Sorry, I wasn’t able to find a video of Dr. Grubber’s talk on the CannMed website.
5. Stop using the word “Microdosing” and just call it a dose
Several doctors and presenters throughout the conference chimed in on “microdosing” THC.
It is simply using a low dose of THC that doesn’t cause mind-altering effects but still has medical benefits.
And really, this is what all medical cannabis users are aiming for.
The doctors generally believe microdosing is a wrong term, and is a misnomer.
It is not dosing in the microgram level, so why call it microdosing?
People who are afraid of the stigma against cannabis call it a microdose.
“Oh its just a tad or touch of THC.” Like when people say they don’t really drink, they just have a little “nip” or a sip.
I believe it was Dr. Bonnie Goldstein who summarized it best when she said, “Lets get over it. If THC is your medicine then it’s your medicine.”
Don’t give in to what other people may think of you using cannabis as medicine. Decades of stigma and propaganda have been waged against the plant but you can just call it your medicine.
It is “your dose.” No need to call it a microdose to try and assuage the “fears” of others.
The video above at about the 48-minute mark is where Dr. Bonnie Goldstein addresses microdosing.
I learned many things while at CannMed 2019 but these are some of the most interesting points that really stuck with me.
These are 5 take-home messages that really changed the way I think about medical cannabis.
And now I can pass this knowledge I’ve gained to the medical cannabis patients I speak with and groups I talk to.
My name is Tim Dyer and I’m a Registered Pharmacist from Penticton BC. I started Harmony Cannabis to provide information and education about medical cannabis for beginners and seniors.
If you are looking for a medical cannabis consultant in Penticton, BC or surrounding area, send me an email to timdyer (at) harmonycannabis.ca
If you want to know more about medical cannabis and you like podcasts, please check out the “Medical Cannabis Podcast: A Beginner’s Guide” that my friend and Dan I record.