Last week, as I waited for my order at a dispensary which shall not be named, I overheard one of the budtenders giving his pitch to a senior who had never used cannabis and was taking the plunge (good for her). She was nervous about smoking but had also heard the rumor that some of the edibles in town had tested lower in THC than the packages listed. (That rumor was actually true. A few years ago, the Santa Fe Reporter did some investigative journalism and tested edibles from around the area. There were edibles that had less than 10 percent of the amount of THC they claimed. But the industry has grown exponentially since then, and testing practices have improved with it, making the danger much lower these days.)
The budtender started explaining that she could bake her own, but that she would need to buy a large amount of flower to make anything. My attention was wandering when I heard him say, “You can eat the buds, but the effects are very mild.” Angry heat prickled at the crown of my head. I imagined the woman chewing on brittle flowers, choking down dry stems. I turned back to the exchange. There he was, looking earnestly into her face and telling her to eat raw cannabis.
No, lady. Don't eat it. It won't do anything. Raw cannabis doesn't have THC, the chemical that makes you feel high, it has THCA, which has to be decarboxylated (heated) to remove a carboxyl group (COOH), and be converted to THC. Edibles have been baked, so their THCA has already been decarboxylated, but raw cannabis has not. That's why you have to burn it.
Long story short: The 'tender had just instructed a patient to waste their money, time and hope. That woman probably got plant matter stuck in her teeth and didn't feel a thing. She most likely told her friends that medical cannabis is a crap shoot. Great job!
If this had been a one-time instance, I would have let it go, but I've heard practically nothing but misinformation from patients and dispensary employees over the last year. I once heard two budtenders talking to each other about the benefits of infusing vodka with the raw flower. They called it “Green Dragon” (I looked it up later, and it's a real thing!) I didn't butt in to tell them that their, “powerful high” was just drunkenness, since, again, raw flower contains no THC.
Another time, I had a full-blown argument with a patient and a 'tender, because neither of them wanted to believe me when I told them that CBD counters the effects of THC, even when I pulled a study up on my phone that showed evidence to support my claim. They wouldn't even look at it!
It makes my brain hurt. Most of us have a node to all of mankind's knowledge sitting in our pockets at this very moment, and we fail again and again to go through the apparently crushing task of picking it up and typing words into Google to inform ourselves. Is it laziness? Fear of being wrong? Who knows? Who knows?
It's funny, because there is a solid message being driven at the federal government by all of us in the medical cannabis community: “We are responsible for what goes into our bodies, not you.” Meanwhile, the vast majority of us are not responsible. We don't really know what we're putting in at all.
I get it. Science is boring. It's all, “decarboxylate this,” and “endocannabinoid that.” The second I see those unpronounceable words, my eyeballs start scanning. But here's one of those pro tips: There are some very strange people in the world who actually get excited when they hear that gibberish. And they usually can't wait to explain it to you.
But where can these mythical people be found? I'm glad you asked.
Apparently the good people at the Verdes Foundation and Southwest Organic Producers (SWOP) are as concerned as I am about the collective shrugging of shoulders that goes on in the local cannabis community, and have decided to sponsor the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Conference: The Plant, The People, The Purpose—an educational seminar aimed at disseminating information on “the medical uses, benefits and contraindications of medical cannabis.”
It will be the first of its kind here in Albuquerque. Medical doctors, neurobiologists and industry experts will be giving presentations regarding the science behind cannabis use. Topics will include cancer care, dosing and more. I urge anyone who wants to learn more about their medicine to attend.
I know the cannabis enthusiast who works at the dispensary is a nice person, but they might not be the best source of information. Quit expecting your budtender to educate you. They aren't teachers or doctors. Should a Walmart employee be required to tell you what's inside the stereo you're buying? No. That's your job as a consumer. You need to actually put in the time (which is fairly minimal, anyway) and research what your medicine does.
The conference is open to the public and will take place at the National Hispanic Cultural Center from 8:30am-1:30pm. Tickets are $20 per person.