Can Cannabis Help Glaucoma Patients?

In 1976, a glaucoma patient named Robert Randall became the first person in the US to be granted legal status as a medical marijuana patient. As a teenager, Randall had been diagnosed with glaucoma and was told by doctors he would likely lose his eyesight before his 30th birthday. After learning of research that indicated THC could be an effective treatment for the disease, he began smoking marijuana. He was subsequently arrested for marijuana cultivation in Washington, D.C., but wasn’t convicted of the charges based on a defense of medical necessity. Thus, the cannabis and glaucoma debate began.

Randall then petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to provide marijuana to treat his disease. In 1976 the FDA approved the petition, later launching the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program to provide unapproved but promising drugs including cannabis to Randall and patients like him. After receiving shipments of joints from the federal government for 25 years to treat the disease, Randal died at the age of 53 in 2001. During that time, he never lost his eyesight.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of related diseases of the eyes characterized by a buildup of fluid in the eye resulting in an increase in interocular pressure (IOP). The condition causes pressure on the optic nerve leading from the eye to the brain, leading to a slow loss of vision that can culminate in blindness. Traditional treatments for glaucoma include eye drops, oral medications and surgery. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among people older than 60, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Some research has shown that THC, the cannabinoid largely associated with the classic marijuana “high,” can temporarily reduce IOP, thereby reducing the pressure on the optic nerve. A review of research into cannabis and glaucoma published in 2019 found that five randomized clinical trials found evidence that cannabis could lower interocular pressure. However, the researchers noted that the studies reviewed had design flaws including a small sample size and inadequate controls. But the glaucoma and marijuana studies also failed to compare the effects of cannabis on glaucoma to traditional treatments. The study concluded that randomized clinical trials (RCTs) showing the efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for the disease were necessary before its use could be recommended.

“The studies that were reviewed were highly variable in their methods and patient population selected, and therefore no current evidence supports the use of any form of cannabis to replace existing,” the authors of the review wrote in their conclusion. “Until further research in the form of RCTs with more evidence to support the use of cannabis for lowering IOP, it should not be recommended at this time.”

Noting that the effect that THC has on IOP is short-lived, the authors also added that if patients decide to use cannabis to treat the disease, “they would require frequent dosing, which has the potential to reduce patient adherence and increase side effects of the medication.”

Other research that supports cannabis as a treatment for glaucoma include animal studies that suggested cannabis might improve blood flow to the eyes and promote healing. Animal research also suggests that cannabis may have neuroprotective effects that might prevent damage to the optic nerve.

What About CBD?

However, not all forms of cannabis and glaucoma are effective and shouldn’t be used as a treatment for the disease. A study published in 2006 found that while THC reduced interocular pressure, CBD actually increased IOP. The educational website Glaucoma Today notes that cannabis varietals “with higher THC content can be expected to lower IOP, whereas strains with higher CBD content can be expected to increase IOP. It is therefore important that eye care providers caution patients who are interested in treating their glaucoma with medical cannabis that products with a high CBD content may have a detrimental effect on their disease process.” Patients who choose to treat their glaucoma with cannabis should choose products with negligible amounts of CBD.

Proponents of medical cannabis as a treatment for glaucoma argue that it’s a natural medication with few side effects. Advocates for the glaucoma and marijuana marriage also believe that cannabis can help the pain often associated with glaucoma and reduce the need for surgery. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) maintains that cannabis is not a practical treatment for glaucoma, primarily because of the temporary nature of its effect. The AAO notes that to effectively reduce IOP, patients would have to ingest 18 mg to 20 mg of THC six to eight times daily. The AAO also cites evidence that cannabis might have the opposite effect than intended, increasing IOP and causing additional damage to optic nerve. As a result, the professional group does not recommend the use of cannabis to treat glaucoma.

“Several current, effective treatments for glaucoma are more reliable and safer than marijuana,” the AAO wrote in 2021.

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Adult-Use Cannabis Reduces Prescription Drug Demand

To date, legal cannabis in America has been understood one of two ways: medicine, or fun. There’s medical marijuana, requiring a qualifying condition and a doctor’s recommendation before any legal weed can be accessed; and then there’s adult-use cannabis (or recreational), requiring nothing but a government-issued ID proving one’s age.

But what if there’s a third way—or, what if, as the late activist Dennis Peron used to say, all marijuana use was medical, or at least part of a general wellness strategy? Recent research that demonstrates a drop in prescription-drug use in states that legalized adult-use cannabis—which, as a convenient bonus, is generally more easily and more widely available than medical—suggests this may be the case.

Weed Up, Pills Down

In the past, the passage of medical cannabis laws has been associated with a drop in prescription pharmaceuticals. The effect of adult-use cannabis laws—no small deal in East Coast states such as New York, where the medical program is small and difficult to access thanks to tight restriction around physicians and qualifying illnesses–-is less studied.

So, researchers looked at Medicaid prescriptions filled between 2011 and 2019 in all 50 states. And in states that legalized adult-use cannabis, they found “significant reductions” in prescriptions filled for drugs meant to treat “pain, depression, anxiety, sleep, psychosis and seizures,” according to a research article published in April in the journal Health Economics.

Or, put another way, legalization seems to present a significant medical benefit along with the familiar arguments for social justice and new sources of tax revenue.

People are self-medicating with cannabis, and while it’s hard to say for certain whether they’re achieving the same results, the fact that they don’t seem to be returning to pharmaceuticals is suggestive, as study co-author Shyam Raman, a PhD student at Cornell University’s Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, said in a recent interview.

“What [adult-use cannabis] legalization does is open up an opportunity to self-medicate without seeing a doctor and potentially be denied because your sickness isn’t on the qualifying condition list,” said Raman, who stressed that while only Medicaid data was studied, these results are applicable to the general population. “There’s some real evidence people are self-medicating, and people aren’t switching back to pharmaceuticals.”

Cannabis for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

Among the drug classes studied, Raman and study co-author Ashley Bradford, a researcher and PhD student at Indiana University, saw the steepest drops in demand for anxiety, depression, insomnia and psychosis, with drops of 12.2%, 11.1%, 10.8% and 10.7%, respectively.

In addition to potential cost-savings for Medicaid programs, adult-use cannabis legalization may present an additional harm-reduction benefit, the researchers found, with people dropping or reducing reliance on pharmaceutical drugs with nasty side effects as easier-to-access “over-the-counter” recreational cannabis becomes available.

“We believe that quite strongly, that people are doing it because the side effects of pharmaceuticals are really frustrating,” Raman said.

The findings suggest adopting both a more sophisticated and expansive understanding of adult-use cannabis legalization—and never neglecting the fact that no matter what you call it, cannabis generally may be a wellness product, a fact that advocates pushing for adult-use cannabis legalization on the state and federal levels shouldn’t neglect.

“The adult-use cannabis market in most states is just easier to utilize, because patients don’t have to pay for a patient card and they don’t have to get a doctor’s recommendation,” said Debbie Churgai, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, arguably the country’s leading medical-first cannabis policy advocacy group.

But, as always, it’s also a reminder that cannabis is badly under-researched. Key questions including dosage and regimen remain unanswered, leaving “patients”—regardless of whether they’re official enrollees in their state’s program—to figure it out for themselves.

“We still don’t know how to regulate cannabis as a medicine,” Raman said. “How are we in a position to say, ‘This is medical,’ without being able to say, ‘This is the amount you take for therapeutic use’?”

Always Medical, Or Wellness Benefit?

So, is cannabis always medical, or is all recreational cannabis also medical, or is a third way of understanding cannabis the best classification? It’s hard to say for certain—and ultimately it may not matter.

“I don’t like to compare [medical and adult-use cannabis],” Churgai said. “I think this is a great example of how people are feeling the effects of the medicine whether they recognize it or not.”

But what this does suggest is that certain forces in the cannabis industry might need to re-evaluate their messaging and branding. Don’t forget about the medical cannabis patients: they’re part of your adult-use market segment, too.

“If you go to these business conferences, you barely even see or hear the word ‘patient’ in any presentation,” Churgai said. “I do think that’s being lost more and more as our industry gets bigger. They think the adult-use cannabis market would be bigger than the medical marijuana market.”

But, as this research suggests, the differences aren’t nearly as sharp and distinct as we might have thought. Medical and adult-use cannabis just might turn out to be precisely the same exact thing.

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From the Archives: Gettin’ High in Surf City (2001)

By Cannabiz Chris

The sweet aroma of marijuana burning is commonplace. So, too, is the possibility of having a joint handed to you by a stoned stranger. Where the redwoods meet the sea, the Northern California beachside city of Santa Cruz has it all—culture, opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle and a laid-back vibe that is all-inclusive, especially toward marijuana.

Santa Cruz is well-known for its liberal political climate toward medical-marijuana legalization. Last year, voters overwhelmingly passed an ordinance authored by Valerie Corral, the founder of WAMM, a local nonprofit provider organization, which enables local residents to obtain medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. In fact, if you have the proper documentation, you can actually book a room at the Bed, Bud and Breakfast Inn in Santa Cruz, where medical-marijuana users can smoke comfortably in a homey, secure setting. Even local law enforcement seems to realize the futility of busting harmless pot-smokers who pose no threat to society. Their priority is to go after largescale commercial operations, and they have left medical pot patients and reefer-loving locals to smoke in relative peace. Which is nice, because the topography of Santa Cruz is a sensory circus—green forests, windswept beaches and a rugged Pacific coastline with secret coves hidden away from view. Jagged cliffs drop into deep blue water. Rustic lighthouses stand staunchly of craggy rock perches while scores of lounging, barking seals create a cacophony.

The town is also a surfing Mecca, worldrenowned for out standing, year-round waves. The surf world knows that the SC boyz are a bunch of cool, down-to earth dudes who are pushing the limits of the sport on all levels while maintaining a high standard of heavy-duty puffing. You can get an eyeful of these wave acrobats from the cliffs and bluffs of Santa Cruz’s prime surf spots. They battle the toughest-ass waves in frigid 50-degree water and keep their eyes peeled for sharks. Surfing is a spiritual sport and cannabis is a spiritual plant. Smoking relaxes the surfer and sets the proper frame of mind for riding waves. Surfers say it enhances their creative ability. Whether aerialist tricksters, big-wave chargers or cruising long-boarders, pot pushes them to perform their best in the water.

But there’s much more to SC than just the surf scene. Discovered in 1769 by the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portóla, Santa Cruz was established in 1850 as one of the first counties of California. Fishing, agriculture and logging were the main industries as the town developed, and a variety of races and cultures from around the world contributed to its growth, exploiting the region’s cornucopia of natural resources.

Landmarks were erected. In the early 1900s, the Swanson family created the Beach Boardwalk and Casino Amusement Park, attracting people nationwide, while the outdoor Pacific Garden Mall became the city center. Since then, the county has set aside an impressive tenth of the region for 19 state parks, and has preserved 13 miles of beachfront.

Although the October ‘89 earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, destroyed the downtown area, including the Pacific Garden Mall, the community rebuilt quickly and has thrived. Art and cultural events take place every week, and local college students and townsfolk commingle on weekends at a variety of premier music venues. You can be, dress, act or look like whatever you desire. No one really cares. Diversity is accepted. Nearly every ethnic group is represented here. Sexual orientation is hardly given a thought. It’s also an organic-food heaven. In fact, the county is one of the nation’s leaders in organic-food production. Dozens of health-food stores carry the freshest fruits and vegetables, plus a supreme array of whole-food products. Growers have discovered that Santa Cruz provides ideal conditions for growing premium pot—rich, fertile soil and an average high temperature of 69°F. The unspoken truth is that a lot of residents grow, in backyards, indoor growrooms and hidden in the middle of the Santa Cruz wilds. People love their weed here. No two ways about it. But more importantly, the citizens of Santa Cruz are establishing a model for other municipalities. They are finding out exactly what transpires when you lay the foundations for responsible marijuana use. Absolutely nothing. Life goes on. Happily.

High Times Magazine, October 2001

Read the full issue here.

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Episode 408 – Delta 8 Goes Legal

Guests Kris Krane and Heather Sullivan speak with host Ben Larson about the recent court ruling finding that Delta 8 THC is legal, the vetoing of legal cannabis by the governor of Delaware, the embrace of legalization by Rhode Island, and a check-in on post-legalization life in New York . Produced by Shea Gunther.

Coping with Cannabis: A Soldier’s Experience with PTSD

“One of the difficulties with post-traumatic stress disorder is that the readiness or need for treatment may emerge years after the trauma. Therefore, veterans and their families need long-term treatment options and long-term access to treatment, even if symptoms are not present at their time of discharge.” -William H. Braun, from Veteran’s for Medical Marijuana

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) wreaks misery on soldiers and families. Military training, combat experience and traumatic events like sexual abuse often radically change cognitive functioning. Unable to process peacetime situations without infusing combat conditioned responses, PTSD sufferers live chaotic, often isolated lives. Approximately 6500 veterans and 349 active service members committed suicide in 2012. The United States Veterans’ Administration (VA) is tasked with providing medical care for all honorably discharged veterans. This includes some psychological care.

A veteran with PTSD faces life and career altering choices. The VA does not dissuade this notion, advising on their website. “You may think that avoiding your PTSD is critical to keeping your job. But if your PTSD symptoms are getting in the way of doing your duties, it is better to deal with them before they hurt your military career. Getting help for PTSD is problem solving.”

The VA outlines several treatments, “cognitive processing, prolonged exposure treatment, mindfulness practice” to name a few, but provides more extensive information for psychiatrists prescribing Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants and other prescription drugs. “The only two FDA approved medications for the treatment of PTSD are sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil). All other medication uses are off label, though there are differing levels of evidence supporting their use…” In a series of videos linked to the site, Psychiatrist Matthew J. Friedman of the VA National Center for PTSD explains that his patients “usually use these medications indefinitely.”

“David” is a former Army Corporal 1st Cavalry who served two terms in Iraq as a chaplain’s assistant in a 900 troop infantry unit. He started suffering from night terrors during basic training after performing sleep deprivation exercises. “I’m dead asleep, having a nightmare. They call me back. I try to explain to them that my time is done. Then I’m in Iraq and it’s hitting the fan and I can’t find my weapon! I don’t remember the rest, but if someone comes into my room or makes the slightest noise, I jump up in the fighting position, screaming, cursing, telling them that I am going to rip them in half. I’ve punched people, thrown stuff. My brother has kicked my ass my entire life, whenever it happens he’s terrified.”

Before enlisting, David was a teetotaling Protestant and devout believer in “George Bush, the War in Iraq, all of it.” Responsible for protecting unarmed rabbis, priests, imams and monks as they performed their duties, he screened soldiers seeking spiritual advice to make sure they weren’t a threat. “They told me all the stories, so I know how every one of their buddies died in detail. Then I would prepare their memorial services.” With the clergy’s help, David implemented a system to make sure those close to a fallen comrade didn’t sleep where they could see their friend’s empty bunk, a common trigger for night terrors. Many soldiers were simply “too far gone,” and referred to psychiatrists.

“More often than not, that’s the route that ends up happening. These people cannot handle it. They were not right for the situation. They thought they wanted to kill people without having any idea what that means. And then the reality bomb hit them so hard that they just couldn’t recover from it.”

For David, healing from the trauma of seeing friends grotesquely killed, sexual harassment from a senior officer, a broken engagement during his first tour, and the shock that George Bush was “just a spokesman for the oil industry” was found primarily through frequent sessions “talking for hours with a Rabbinical scholar while smoking joints.” After a few months processing the theological, political and personal ramifications of the war this way, he realized his night terrors were becoming less frequent. “I wasn’t smoking every night, so I didn’t see a correlation that it was stopping the night terrors.”

Four years back in the US and still waking violently to the slightest sound, David “just couldn’t take it anymore” and sought help from the VA. He told a physician’s assistant that he suspected marijuana might be helping, but worried about side effects. “All the research I had done said it was safe. The guy was very casual, but he recommended that I stop using it because they had stuff that would do the trick.”

The assistant prescribed diphenhydramine (Benadryl), an allergy and sleep aid, and “some blood pressure pills to make my heart slow down and stop the nightmares.” The treatment didn’t stop the problem and left him groggy and dysfunctional in the morning. “Benadryl hazes you, whereas weed, especially Sativa, makes me think clearer.”

David worries that he might “start liking marijuana too much and abuse it,” but prefers to take that risk over a lifetime experimenting with prescription medications. “I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. I am completely 100 percent sure that marijuana cured my night terrors. My brain operates at a higher level than normal about my surroundings and I think about things in a much more peaceful way. My roommates can walk into my room now when I’m asleep and I’m like, “Hey, Dude.”

Years of persistent lobbying by the advocacy group Veterans for Medical Marijuana goaded the US Veteran’s Administration to clarify its stance in a January 2011 memo. “VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in state marijuana programs from also participating in clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals. Patients participating in state marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services. If a patient reports participation in a state marijuana program to a member of the clinical staff, that information is entered into the ‘non-VA medication section’ of the patient’s electronic medical record.”

Currently, the medical establishment waits to see if specific molecules can be isolated from cannabis and used to treat specific symptoms. With new strains bred daily across a multi-billion dollar global industry, testing with scientific certainty is an elusive goal. Several small studies are currently being funded and undertaken by federal and private researchers. For veterans and those close to them experiencing PTSD, research into treatment opportunities is crucial to finding a path to recovery.

Experimenting with treatment for mental disorders is extremely dangerous. Cannabis Now does not advocate or repudiate any particular course of treatment, but all available studies have shown that talking to friends, loved ones and professionals about PTSD triggers is vital to recovery. Veterans for Medical Marijuana urges those seeking treatment to, “Be assertive, every veteran deserves any, and all, medical and/or psychological help.”

Looking for more resources?

United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD
Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Medical Marijuana Research Page
PTSD Forum – Chat rooms, information, videos and music
American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Illicit Gardens Takes Action

Recognized as being Missouri’s best-selling cannabis brand in 2021, Illicit Gardens is a grow facility and dispensary on a mission to free those incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes. The company is making this goal a reality by growing exceptional cannabis under the power of Fohse’s A3i LED lights.

Illicit Gardens COO Adam Diltz shares his insights into creating a stand-out cannabis brand, the role Fohse plays, and why cannabis justice reform is a cornerstone of their operation.

Building the Illicit Gardens Brand

For Illicit Gardens founders Adam Diltz and Nate Ruby, acting on their vision of using cannabis to create positive community change is of the utmost importance.

“While there are a number of companies out there who claim to help shine a light on some of the hypocrisies and injustices in this space, there are very few who do much more than talk the talk,” Diltz said. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t just talk the talk, but walked the walk.”

When conceptualizing the Illicit Gardens brand in early 2020, the founders felt strongly that their actions and efforts behind the scenes should also align with their goals to promote cannabis justice reform. They wanted a name that would make people stop and do a double take.

“When we landed on the name ‘Illicit,’ we had discussions about taking back that word from all the negative connotations associated with that word and the cannabis community,” Diltz said. “Why was cannabis ever even labeled illicit?”

They knew that choosing an in-your-face name would provide opportunities to educate the public on the history and injustices of cannabis prohibition. Edgy, stylized branding by Illicit’s creative director, Cristina Osorio, rounded out the new brand.

PHOTO @keene.media

But Illicit Gardens is more than a cutting-edge, socially conscious cannabis company with cool branding. The team brings over 50 years of combined management experience, working in over 40 facilities in eight states. The company’s genetic library features over 30 hand-selected cultivars. Proprietary drying and curing techniques maximize the terpene and cannabinoid content of the top-shelf flower while bio-security systems eliminate all contaminants from the air and any surfaces.

“Our understanding of the science, ability to work with the environment and our strategic use of technology brings consistency and top quality in every harvest,” Diltz said. “There are not a lot of growers or facilities out there that are able to scale to the 1,000-pound-plus per month size and maintain craft-quality level cannabis products.”

Growing Efficiently at Scale With Fohse LEDs

Good lighting is the foundation for any grow op. When Illicit Gardens opened its state-of-the-art facility in 2021, they undertook an intensive vetting process to ensure they selected the lights needed to achieve their cultivation goals.

For Diltz and the cultivation team, choosing Fohse’s A3i lights was a no-brainer due to the system’s unique features, reduced overheads and easy access to a great customer support team.

The A3i is regarded by industry experts as being the most powerful grow light in the world. Its swiveling light bars allow maximum canopy penetration via cross illumination to neighboring grow plots while producing up to 60% more light per BTU than a traditional HOS system.

Installing A3i lights in Illicit Gardens’ flowering rooms has been a game-changer, enabling them to get the same coverage with 60% of the total fixture account versus competitor systems on a per-square-foot basis.

“Using LED has allowed us to dramatically cut not only monthly utility costs, but also decrease our startup costs by requiring smaller HVAC units in comparison to building a facility using traditional HPS lighting systems,” Diltz said.

PHOTO @keene.media

The ability to incorporate Fohse lights with other control systems is also a major bonus.

“Being able to integrate the controls into our facility control system allows for quick and easy management of our lighting schedule, intensity and spectrums based on the stages of the plants’ growth,” Diltz explained.

Illicit Gardens works to minimize their carbon footprint as much as possible, so using lights that are more efficient and reduce their environmental impact is critical. To decrease water consumption, all moisture is pulled from the air in the grow rooms through condenser pumps on an HVAC system. It’s then sterilized with dissolved oxygen and reintroduced into feed tanks. The A3i significantly reduces the company’s energy consumption by producing 60% more light per BTU than an HPS system, as less strain is placed on cooling systems.

A Platform for Change

Through Illicit Gardens’ focus on growing the highest quality medical cannabis, the company has built a loyal following of repeat customers in Missouri. Diltz sees this as an opportunity to create awareness of their local, regional and national reform goals while also supporting like-minded activist groups and political initiatives. 

“Anyone can grow cannabis, but can you grow top shelf at scale while telling a compelling story?” Diltz asks. “It’s the story behind what we do that drives us to be better and makes patients care about the mission.”

Illicit Gardens works with local and national advocacy groups to support the release of cannabis prisoners. On 4/20, in collaboration with Strange Music and Last Prisoner Project, Illicit Gardens launched its Freedoms Campaign and flew eight cannabis prisoners of war (POWs) to a studio in Missouri to record their stories to raise money for their release and reintegration. Each month they will highlight a different prisoner and tell their story.

PHOTO Courtesy of Illicit Gardens

The campaign launch coincided with the release of a new product line, “West by Illicit,” which isthe brainchild of freed cannabis POW Donte West who was sentenced to eight years for a first-time cannabis offense in Kansas.

“West fought his charges and ultimately secured his release and dismissal of all charges through sheer force of will and perseverance against a system designed to keep him behind bars,” Diltz said, adding that 30% of the proceeds from “West by Illicit” sales will be donated to a rotating list of Missouri’s incarcerated cannabis prisoners to assist with their legal and reintegration fees.

Diltz and his team are determined to raise awareness for those incarcerated for cannabis crimes while also encouraging citizens to challenge the hypocrisy in the legal system regarding cannabis.

“We ask consumers of our products to not take for granted their freedoms,” he says, and “to understand the plight of those behind bars for the now-legal activity they get to enjoy freely, and through an understanding of those injustices—be inspired to take action.”

VP of Marketing Daniel Craig says Illicit’s contribution to the community “extends beyond criminal justice reform and our work with Last Prisoner’s Project.”

For example, Illicit Gardens works closely with Southeast Enterprises, an organization giving those with mental disabilities an opportunity to participate in the workforce. Southeast Enterprises helps Illicit with their glass jar recycling programs, the only active cannabis recycling program in the city, as well with additional cleaning services at their cultivation and manufacturing facilities.

“Our dispensaries have additionally partnered with HEDC (Hispanic Economic Development Corporation), which is dedicated to improving the lives of Latinos within the greater Kansas City area,” Craig says.

HEDC achieves this area through business development and economic and community wealth creation initiatives, including job placement, advanced workforce training, development of economic corridors and several other local projects. According to Craig, Illicit has raised over $25,000 in donations for HEDC activities. 

Illicit Gardens’ drive for success is clear. And for their team, success isn’t just about the dollar signs. At the end of the day, Craig says that “Illicit aims to support both our patients, cannabis POWs and local community organizations.”

And Fohse agrees.

“We’re proud to support the success of Illicit Gardens,” says Fohse’s chief marketing officer, Leonard Wilson. “Not only are they growing high-quality cannabis with our LED fixtures, but their philanthropic work also lends a voice to the community while sharing compelling stories of the unsung.”

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Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown

Stepping out of the unregulated medical marijuana market in California and into the world of legal, adult-use cannabis, with licensing and high taxes to follow, has been no small feat for most farmers in Northern California’s hail from the Emerald Triangle, which includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. Considered by many as the cannabis capital of the world, this is where many of the cultivars we enjoy were first developed.

One such Southern Humboldt County farmer, Sunboldt Grown owner Sunshine Cereceda, was comfortable in the medical marijuana space, using the cooperative model where patients supported farmers. There, she developed and branded cultivars of her own, like Loopy Fruit, Wanderlust, Delphina and Redwood Summer.

Cereceda saw the writing on the wall with issues of legalization for the small farmers to the north, and her message is the still the same: Farmers need to brand themselves, their farms and their cultivars in order to effectively compete and be known.

They also need to do away with the middleman—or the “Bro Distro”—as Cereceda dubbed them. This refers to the old-school method of moving material and product on just a handshake, with the small farmer at home often getting the short end of the deal. It worked to a point back in the day, but today trust is being exploited by what she calls “corporate sharks.”

“Cannabis has always sustained us, even through the hard times, so why is it not going to get us through now, after all these years?” Cereceda asks. “In my mind, the small cannabis farmers need to change their mindset. They need to do away with all the bad habits developed in the past unregulated markets in order to move forward.”

Cereceda went on to explain that in the days of prohibition, they were functioning without a future. But now, small cannabis farmers can leverage their own history as they legally build their businesses. 

“Rookies and bad habits built the industry during prohibition. From my roots in activism, I understand the challenges of the messenger,” she said. “But we have this product that’s already branded from our region—we’re known as rockstars in the industry. There’s no stronger cannabis community in the nation. We’re just in transition. It’s a learning curve, to say the least.”

Born Into Activism

Cereceda’s mom brought her to Southern Humboldt from her birthplace of San Luis Obispo, CA, when she was seven years old. 

“I was raised by an activist,” Cereceda says. “My mother organized and protested nuclear energy and weapons. She was there during the Diablo Canyon rally in 1978 with [CA Governor] Jerry Brown—she was one of the organizers.”

Part of her mother’s advocacy included protecting the redwoods, and Cereceda followed in her footsteps, majoring in geology at Humboldt State University. “I studied geology mostly because it’s Mother Earth, and I wanted to understand the earth” she said. “I thought it was all about plant life, but then I realized it was the rocks and the earth itself.”

The degree led her to work on road inventories for Humboldt Redwoods State Parks, followed by a gig with Pacific Watershed Associates. 

Watershed stewardship is an important issue in California and is directly tied to the health of the forests and rivers. For decades, the watershed was largely ignored by small and large-scale cannabis operations from both the unregulated medical and illicit markets during the days of the Green Rush. They would reroute water coming down the mountains to suit their needs, with unpermitted roads crisscrossing the hills, making it nearly impossible for literally hundreds of hill farmers to come into compliance today.

It’s important to note that the erosion of the roads is also a direct result from the timber industry, now expected to be corrected and paid for by the farmers.

“During a town hall meeting prior to legalization, water experts were brought in to let us know that, even in a drought, we could gather enough water to care for our crops using rain-catchment systems,” she said. “Cannabis farmers have taken the lead in responsible water use for agriculture in the state.”

For the Love of Farming

Responsible agricultural practices are key in sustainable and regenerative farming, which is what the Emerald Triangle is known for. But it’s not enough to compete in an overregulated market, where the farmer feels the brunt of taxation—not only on the farm, but also on the shelf, as retailers bump their losses down to the farmer at check-out.

“Farmers are at the end of the line in a capitalistic system, and we carry the tax burden as it gets kicked down from retailers and brands that buy bulk and package it themselves,” Cereceda says. “I’m lucky that I have good retail partners, but that took time and consistency to establish. If you’re still using your Bro Distro, you’re losing a big chunk of income.”

With the promise of distributors and umbrella brands representing farmers a clear disappointment—garnering a mere $400 to $500 per pound—Cereceda says it’s time for farmers to represent themselves in the marketplace and build a brand.

Doing all the work herself with her team, from seed to shelf, including packaging, Cereceda said she’s been able to get $1100 to $1200 per pound.

“Farm management skills [and] managing workers—it takes a lot of years and a concentrated effort to be good at it, and that all adds to your bottom line” she says. “You can’t just get a license and think it’s all going to work out alright with your output. Historically, we pay for our operation out of each harvest, but that’s like working paycheck to paycheck with no guarantee your next crop will be moved. Our distribution right now is weak.”

Reducing risk plays a big factor in succeeding in the regulated market, and Cereceda says the more a farmer opts out of their own work, the less they’ll make. It’s just common sense.

“How about growing what you can move yourself?” she asks. “This is capitalism, count your blessings. This is how it works. The middleman will take all your profits if you let him. And your Bro Distro isn’t much better. It takes one year to grow a crop; it takes several years to grow a business.”

One distributor Cereceda speaks fondly of is Berner, CEO and co-founder of Cookies, with longtime Southern Humboldt Farmer, Kevin Jodrey in the mix.

“Berner is underrated,” she says. “He’s doing a great job supporting farmers and has gotten more customers off the black market on the streets and into shops than anyone else. He allowed so many black-market growers back in the day to prosper growing his genetics—they got brand recognition for his cultivars. Can’t say enough good about Berner.”

Berner is a stage name for San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop artist, Gilbert Anthony Milam, Jr., who branded his Cookies cultivar during the medical market in California. Cookies was made legendary after the Scouts of America forced him to shorten the name from Girl Scout Cookies to Cookies.

Branding a Life

small cannabis farmers

Showing the face of the farmer—telling their stories in today’s social media marketing mindset is everything.

The once shy Cereceda is now posting photos of herself on social media from the farm, holding her colas in the forest, telling the stories of how they were created and named—sharing her charmed farm life with the world.

Typically, it takes years to create a cultivar. It’s not uncommon for each farmer to have specific stories surrounding the work, the detailed variations of the flower, and the cultivar’s name, which often involves a sentimental or meaningful story from the farm.

Sunboldt Grown’s website beckons, “Taste the Redwoods,” noting all cultivars are grown in the loamy ancient soil, taking on nuances, just as in viticulture in the South of France and the growing of grapes for wine taking on the essence of lavender or rosemary nearby.

The plants are grown in the flood plain deposits of the Eel River, with no additional water needed. This is called dry farming, and the farmers refer to themselves as “terroirists” (from the French word terroir, meaning earth or soil), who allow for the place to be expressed in the flower they grow.

Cereceda’s crops are also grown by the cycles of the moon, not uncommon among farmers. In fact, the historic Farmer’s Almanac still provides lunar cycles as a planting guide. The almanac explains that just as the moon’s gravitational pull creates the tides of the oceans, it also promotes plant growth by creating more moisture in the soil. 

Sunboldt Grown cannabis

“Wanderlust was inspired by sailing on the ocean,” Cereceda says. “The word implies an urgency to be moving, to not settle in one place.”

From its website, Wanderlust is a hybrid of Blue Dream and Agent Orange, with flavors of lemon-lime zest and fresh Douglas Fir needles, finishing with a splash of orange juice. The smoke is medium-bodied with a dense, velvety richness. A ten-week strain, its delicate flower is sensitive to the cold.

“Redwood Summer is named after the campaign and initiative from 1990, to stop the clear-cutting of all old-growth redwoods,” Cereceda said.

The backstory to the Redwood Summer campaign is heartbreaking and personal to the region. Earth First! began the movement. It was led by Judi Bari during the Timber Wars that continued into the 1990s and ended when Bari and her partner Daryl Cherney were seriously injured after a pipe bomb was planted in their car. The cultivar is a tribute to Bari and the movement that continues to educate and protect the old growth forests.

Delphina was created by crossing Purple Nepal with Rebel Moon (NorCal Diesel). Cereceda uses this cultivar to make old-school, solventless, bubble hash as it yields high-quality resin. A sweet and savory aroma, it’s spicy, and the smoke is likened to breathing in the forest floor, delivering a deep state of relaxation and euphoria.

“Delphina is a Greek woman from Delphi, Greece, where the Earth Goddess Gaia was first celebrated,” she said. 

According to author Darian West, the Oracle of Delphi was considered the most influential woman of the ancient world from 800 BC until 393 AD, when her last recorded entry predicted the end of the Roman Empire, declaring, “All is ended.” Delphina proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in the world, predicted the rise of Alexander the Great and foretold the death of Nero.

Farmer as Influencer

Small cannabis farmers have a hard time getting out of the illicit market. For the most part, they can’t afford licensing; can’t move product; distribution is weak; taxes are high; and ordinances are unreasonable and/or ill-informed to begin with, causing undue hardships.

“Everyone is codependent in this space,” Cereceda says. “The handshake deals don’t work anymore. The days of your best buddy distributing for you are over.”

For the first time in history, cannabis farmers are feeling the brunt of growing the world’s most illicit and beloved herb on the planet. Just as with food farmers, they aren’t getting a living wage, with no subsidy from the US government to bail them out when times are hard, or the price per pound is too low to pay the bills.

“Everyone is borrowing on us, and we’ve been way too complacent about it for far too long,”’ Cereceda says. “On the other hand, this product—this cash crop—is from Mother Earth, and the fact that we’re doing as well as we are up here is just amazing to me. We need to own our right to be here and work smarter.”

The post Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown

Stepping out of the unregulated medical marijuana market in California and into the world of legal, adult-use cannabis, with licensing and high taxes to follow, has been no small feat for most farmers in Northern California’s hail from the Emerald Triangle, which includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. Considered by many as the cannabis capital of the world, this is where many of the cultivars we enjoy were first developed.

One such Southern Humboldt County farmer, Sunboldt Grown owner Sunshine Cereceda, was comfortable in the medical marijuana space, using the cooperative model where patients supported farmers. There, she developed and branded cultivars of her own, like Loopy Fruit, Wanderlust, Delphina and Redwood Summer.

Cereceda saw the writing on the wall with issues of legalization for the small farmers to the north, and her message is the still the same: Farmers need to brand themselves, their farms and their cultivars in order to effectively compete and be known.

They also need to do away with the middleman—or the “Bro Distro”—as Cereceda dubbed them. This refers to the old-school method of moving material and product on just a handshake, with the small farmer at home often getting the short end of the deal. It worked to a point back in the day, but today trust is being exploited by what she calls “corporate sharks.”

“Cannabis has always sustained us, even through the hard times, so why is it not going to get us through now, after all these years?” Cereceda asks. “In my mind, the small cannabis farmers need to change their mindset. They need to do away with all the bad habits developed in the past unregulated markets in order to move forward.”

Cereceda went on to explain that in the days of prohibition, they were functioning without a future. But now, small cannabis farmers can leverage their own history as they legally build their businesses. 

“Rookies and bad habits built the industry during prohibition. From my roots in activism, I understand the challenges of the messenger,” she said. “But we have this product that’s already branded from our region—we’re known as rockstars in the industry. There’s no stronger cannabis community in the nation. We’re just in transition. It’s a learning curve, to say the least.”

Born Into Activism

Cereceda’s mom brought her to Southern Humboldt from her birthplace of San Luis Obispo, CA, when she was seven years old. 

“I was raised by an activist,” Cereceda says. “My mother organized and protested nuclear energy and weapons. She was there during the Diablo Canyon rally in 1978 with [CA Governor] Jerry Brown—she was one of the organizers.”

Part of her mother’s advocacy included protecting the redwoods, and Cereceda followed in her footsteps, majoring in geology at Humboldt State University. “I studied geology mostly because it’s Mother Earth, and I wanted to understand the earth” she said. “I thought it was all about plant life, but then I realized it was the rocks and the earth itself.”

The degree led her to work on road inventories for Humboldt Redwoods State Parks, followed by a gig with Pacific Watershed Associates. 

Watershed stewardship is an important issue in California and is directly tied to the health of the forests and rivers. For decades, the watershed was largely ignored by small and large-scale cannabis operations from both the unregulated medical and illicit markets during the days of the Green Rush. They would reroute water coming down the mountains to suit their needs, with unpermitted roads crisscrossing the hills, making it nearly impossible for literally hundreds of hill farmers to come into compliance today.

It’s important to note that the erosion of the roads is also a direct result from the timber industry, now expected to be corrected and paid for by the farmers.

“During a town hall meeting prior to legalization, water experts were brought in to let us know that, even in a drought, we could gather enough water to care for our crops using rain-catchment systems,” she said. “Cannabis farmers have taken the lead in responsible water use for agriculture in the state.”

For the Love of Farming

Responsible agricultural practices are key in sustainable and regenerative farming, which is what the Emerald Triangle is known for. But it’s not enough to compete in an overregulated market, where the farmer feels the brunt of taxation—not only on the farm, but also on the shelf, as retailers bump their losses down to the farmer at check-out.

“Farmers are at the end of the line in a capitalistic system, and we carry the tax burden as it gets kicked down from retailers and brands that buy bulk and package it themselves,” Cereceda says. “I’m lucky that I have good retail partners, but that took time and consistency to establish. If you’re still using your Bro Distro, you’re losing a big chunk of income.”

With the promise of distributors and umbrella brands representing farmers a clear disappointment—garnering a mere $400 to $500 per pound—Cereceda says it’s time for farmers to represent themselves in the marketplace and build a brand.

Doing all the work herself with her team, from seed to shelf, including packaging, Cereceda said she’s been able to get $1100 to $1200 per pound.

“Farm management skills [and] managing workers—it takes a lot of years and a concentrated effort to be good at it, and that all adds to your bottom line” she says. “You can’t just get a license and think it’s all going to work out alright with your output. Historically, we pay for our operation out of each harvest, but that’s like working paycheck to paycheck with no guarantee your next crop will be moved. Our distribution right now is weak.”

Reducing risk plays a big factor in succeeding in the regulated market, and Cereceda says the more a farmer opts out of their own work, the less they’ll make. It’s just common sense.

“How about growing what you can move yourself?” she asks. “This is capitalism, count your blessings. This is how it works. The middleman will take all your profits if you let him. And your Bro Distro isn’t much better. It takes one year to grow a crop; it takes several years to grow a business.”

One distributor Cereceda speaks fondly of is Berner, CEO and co-founder of Cookies, with longtime Southern Humboldt Farmer, Kevin Jodrey in the mix.

“Berner is underrated,” she says. “He’s doing a great job supporting farmers and has gotten more customers off the black market on the streets and into shops than anyone else. He allowed so many black-market growers back in the day to prosper growing his genetics—they got brand recognition for his cultivars. Can’t say enough good about Berner.”

Berner is a stage name for San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop artist, Gilbert Anthony Milam, Jr., who branded his Cookies cultivar during the medical market in California. Cookies was made legendary after the Scouts of America forced him to shorten the name from Girl Scout Cookies to Cookies.

Branding a Life

small cannabis farmers

Showing the face of the farmer—telling their stories in today’s social media marketing mindset is everything.

The once shy Cereceda is now posting photos of herself on social media from the farm, holding her colas in the forest, telling the stories of how they were created and named—sharing her charmed farm life with the world.

Typically, it takes years to create a cultivar. It’s not uncommon for each farmer to have specific stories surrounding the work, the detailed variations of the flower, and the cultivar’s name, which often involves a sentimental or meaningful story from the farm.

Sunboldt Grown’s website beckons, “Taste the Redwoods,” noting all cultivars are grown in the loamy ancient soil, taking on nuances, just as in viticulture in the South of France and the growing of grapes for wine taking on the essence of lavender or rosemary nearby.

The plants are grown in the flood plain deposits of the Eel River, with no additional water needed. This is called dry farming, and the farmers refer to themselves as “terroirists” (from the French word terroir, meaning earth or soil), who allow for the place to be expressed in the flower they grow.

Cereceda’s crops are also grown by the cycles of the moon, not uncommon among farmers. In fact, the historic Farmer’s Almanac still provides lunar cycles as a planting guide. The almanac explains that just as the moon’s gravitational pull creates the tides of the oceans, it also promotes plant growth by creating more moisture in the soil. 

Sunboldt Grown cannabis

“Wanderlust was inspired by sailing on the ocean,” Cereceda says. “The word implies an urgency to be moving, to not settle in one place.”

From its website, Wanderlust is a hybrid of Blue Dream and Agent Orange, with flavors of lemon-lime zest and fresh Douglas Fir needles, finishing with a splash of orange juice. The smoke is medium-bodied with a dense, velvety richness. A ten-week strain, its delicate flower is sensitive to the cold.

“Redwood Summer is named after the campaign and initiative from 1990, to stop the clear-cutting of all old-growth redwoods,” Cereceda said.

The backstory to the Redwood Summer campaign is heartbreaking and personal to the region. Earth First! began the movement. It was led by Judi Bari during the Timber Wars that continued into the 1990s and ended when Bari and her partner Daryl Cherney were seriously injured after a pipe bomb was planted in their car. The cultivar is a tribute to Bari and the movement that continues to educate and protect the old growth forests.

Delphina was created by crossing Purple Nepal with Rebel Moon (NorCal Diesel). Cereceda uses this cultivar to make old-school, solventless, bubble hash as it yields high-quality resin. A sweet and savory aroma, it’s spicy, and the smoke is likened to breathing in the forest floor, delivering a deep state of relaxation and euphoria.

“Delphina is a Greek woman from Delphi, Greece, where the Earth Goddess Gaia was first celebrated,” she said. 

According to author Darian West, the Oracle of Delphi was considered the most influential woman of the ancient world from 800 BC until 393 AD, when her last recorded entry predicted the end of the Roman Empire, declaring, “All is ended.” Delphina proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in the world, predicted the rise of Alexander the Great and foretold the death of Nero.

Farmer as Influencer

Small cannabis farmers have a hard time getting out of the illicit market. For the most part, they can’t afford licensing; can’t move product; distribution is weak; taxes are high; and ordinances are unreasonable and/or ill-informed to begin with, causing undue hardships.

“Everyone is codependent in this space,” Cereceda says. “The handshake deals don’t work anymore. The days of your best buddy distributing for you are over.”

For the first time in history, cannabis farmers are feeling the brunt of growing the world’s most illicit and beloved herb on the planet. Just as with food farmers, they aren’t getting a living wage, with no subsidy from the US government to bail them out when times are hard, or the price per pound is too low to pay the bills.

“Everyone is borrowing on us, and we’ve been way too complacent about it for far too long,”’ Cereceda says. “On the other hand, this product—this cash crop—is from Mother Earth, and the fact that we’re doing as well as we are up here is just amazing to me. We need to own our right to be here and work smarter.”

The post Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown appeared first on Cannabis Now.