That’s right. Tim McGivern knows his medicine. More specifically, he knows all about the medical value of plants in the genus Cannabis, a flowering perennial that folks all over this great nation have taken up the use of—ostensibly for legitimate medical reasons. As the general manager of Santa Fe based medical dispensary, Sacred Garden, McGivern is tasked with common management skills, but also has an acute and fascinating knowledge base at his fingertips.
Learned, loquacious and most of all approachable, McGivern’s knowledge reaches past the normative as he seeks solutions for a growing roster of patients, a thriving business, and ultimately, a cultural sea change in the way individuals and the government view and use the plant called cannabis.
Weekly Alibi sat down with Tim McGivern over a cup of coffee at Humble, to discuss all of these aspects of the current cannabis debate and much more.
Weekly Alibi: You’re deeply involved in advocating for and advancing the use of medical cannabis in New Mexico. How did you get there?
Tim McGivern: Well, you know I started paying attention to what was happening in New Mexico well over 10 years ago—when the testimony first started in our Legislature. The real leaders of this whole movement of medicinal cannabis being accessible were New Mexicans and where this started was the New Mexico Legislature. Mothers came in with their children—they were looking for an herbal remedy. And they wanted safe access to something that could help their kids—some had serious problems with spasticity and seizures, very debilitating diseases. And not just moms, but the general public; they were the ones who stood up and told their stories. Their stories said we need to take a humanistic view of this, to give access to a medicine that would improve their quality of life. It was a great thing; the Legislature stepping up with the governor. Everyone agreed they wanted to pass this bill. That urgency let the genie out of the bottle. I was there and wanted to be an advocate because I believe in cannabis’ medicinal properties. If there was an opportunity to be involved, I wanted it.
What happened next?
I was very fortunate to have a good friend in Albuquerque who held one of the few production licenses granted at the start of program, almost 10 years ago. I started helping him, supporting his operations at R. Greenleaf. From there, I have continued to stay involved and up to date, to this very day.
What has changed in those intervening 10 years and how have you adapted to such inevitabilities?
It’s interesting. You know, it was initially the early adopters who were pioneering what was going on. We really didn’t have fleshed-out regulations as far as how the medical cannabis would be cultivated, how that process would be regulated, as well as testing for properties—
What do you mean by safe access?
Safe access now means cultivation of the cannabis, first and foremost, has to be clean—pathogen free and contaminant free. The produce has to be third-party tested by a licensed laboratory. All of these aspects are regulated by the Department of Health. Patients know through experience that they are getting medicine that is far and away different from what they would have access to otherwise—
Do you think those regulatory processes are going to open up the system to more clinical testing, to find out exactly how cannabis affects the human body?
I certainly hope so and I will continue to advocate for just such a direction. I hope that the medical professionals that are taking a look at the plant’s efficacy are talking to their colleagues and growing their numbers. Obviously we are now in a position where we have a society where some have become dependent on opioids and painkillers, pharmaceutical drugs that are distributed through the backbone of a very strong lobbying effort in Washington that is based on profit. The result is an addiction crisis. But here we also have a therapeutic herbal remedy that is non-addictive and has no negative side effects—when properly dosed—in my opinion.
That’s an important component. Are testing protocols moving toward establishing baseline doses for the medical use of cannabis, for THC?
In the dispensaries today, in New Mexico, they are all regulated to make sure dosages are carefully represented, labeled, discussed with patients. Patients are part of an educational process. Through the dispensary and its personnel, they are educated about issues that might arise out of dosage. Being an herbal remedy, medicinal cannabis use education is experiential; use in moderation is better than any sort of excess usage generally speaking.
So it seems like the patient involvement component is the key to success in treating medical problems with cannabis, que no?
Yes. It’s not a “take two every four hours” kind of concept underlying medical cannabis dosing. This is something different, different from a pharmaceutical product. It’s organic, there are various different types of strains of the plant with widely varying therapeutic benefits. Different plants offer different types of relief. People involved in the program can try and see what works for them. They can get acquainted and familiarized with the type of strain that most benefits their particular ailment; and that can be done in a really safe way.
What are some best practices for patients, in order to get and stay up to speed regarding their own treatment with cannabis?
That’s a superb question. First, you have to be careful with the internet, in terms of accuracy. The best place to go for information and education is to your very reliable and informed local dispensary. At Sacred Garden for instance, we pride ourselves on being patients serving patients. We’re also experts when it comes to knowing about our processes and products. But no matter where you go, I highly encourage patients to take charge of their health and to learn about the plant.