ST. GEORGE – In an effort to spread education about professed benefits of cannabis, a symposium was offered by the Dixie Student Nursing Association at Dixie State University Tuesday night.
The symposium was held in the Russell C. Taylor Health Science Building with about 30 people in attendance. Presenters came from Gramma’s for Ganja, the American Cannabis Nurses Association and St. George Vet Center.
Jeanne “Magic” Black, a retired nurse and founder of Gramma’s for Ganja organized and moderated the event.
Black said one of her children had smoked marijuana while growing up and she always threw it away when she discovered it. However, after some pleading from her son to learn about cannabis, she decided to start doing research and never stopped.
“Every time, I hear new things about the plant that are very beneficial,” Black said.
Aside from the potential medicinal uses medical cannabis supporters say the plant has, Black highlighted some of the industrial uses for the plant.
She mentioned hemp and how that has been used for thousands of years in China in many ways, from the production of paper to clothing and strong rope. Part of the plant can also be used for health food and also ground into a biodegradable fuel, Black said.
“It’s the Earth’s premium renewable resource,” she said, adding, “We’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg with this plant.”
On the medicinal side, Black said she has seen cannabis help ease the pains of a family member who has post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I know cannabis is good medicine,” Black said.
Julie Monteiro, a registered nurse out of Nevada and member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association expounded on the potential medicinal qualities of the plant that supporters laud.
“I was a skeptic myself, part of the Nancy Reagan ‘Just say No’ era,” Monteiro said. “It’s a Schedule I drug. It was taboo.”
Monteiro was introduced to cannabis in 2010 and eventually became an advocate for patient use while also educating other nurses and doctors about the same.
“Education is always key in this,” she said.
During her presentation, Monteiro said cannabis can be used to help address a myriad of health issues, such as being a possible treatment for cancer.
Other claimed benefits include reducing inflammation, promoting bone growth, relieving pain, reducing seizures, relieving anxiety, fighting bacterial growth and other possible benefits.
Monteiro also went over the endocannabinoid system, an internal biological system that is involved in “regulating a variety of psychological processes including appetite, pain and pleasure sensations, immune system, mood, and memory,” according to the presentation. In other words, the endocannabinoid system promotes homeostasis – balance and stability – within the body.
The brain naturally produces cannabinoids that help perform regulatory functions, she said, and can be aided in these functions through the use of plant and pharmaceutical-derived cannabinoids.
For medicinal cannabis to be beneficial though, Monteiro said patients need to use chemical extracts from the whole plant – both the compound CBD, or cannabidiol, and THC, the active ingredient of cannabis. THC is the chemical component of cannabis that causes users to “get high.”
During the 2016 general session of the Utah Legislature, Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga, promoted a medical cannabis bill that would have allowed use of the whole plant, THC included. Despite some initial support from lawmakers, the bill ultimately died as did a separate medical cannabis bill that wouldn’t have allowed access to THC.
If someone feels they need to use medical cannabis, Monteiro encourages them to do so legally. The dosages a patient takes and the method of application – whether through inhalation, a topical cream or some other means – are also important, she said. Seeking the advice of a medical professional was advised.
“It’s become really popular – the idea that marijuana could be a good, solid treatment for PTSD,” Bruce Solomon, a Vietnam veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD, said.
But, he said, any randomized triple-blind research verifying cannabis’ efficacy in treating PTSD is lacking.
There is a significant risk of abuse because of the high incidence of avoidant behavior practiced by those suffering from PTSD, he said. PTSD is massively pervasive among veterans. It puts vets into a state of hypervigilance and never-ending threat assessment – they tend to live as though there is a roadside bomb around every street corner or a potential enemy in every crowd.
“It doesn’t matter where you are – you’re not safe,” Solomon said. “(The threat) comes from anywhere at any time.”
Read more: Veterans Aware: PTSD primer
Although Solomon is a readjustment counselor with the St. George Vet Center, he said he was not speaking as a representative of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He can’t talk to clients about cannabis or recommend its use, particularly since it remains illegal in Utah; he was at the symposium, he said, to give some insight into PTSD and give his own view on the potential of the cannabis issue.
While he worries that use of cannabis for PTSD could be abused and become a means of self-medication for some, Solomon said he isn’t opposed to it as long as it is used responsibility and with the aid of medical professionals.
By the symposium’s conclusion, Black said she hoped those in attendance left with more knowledge about the reported benefits of cannabis than they arrived with originally.
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