Q&A With a Cannabis Consultant
If your enthusiasm on Instagram is any indication, you’re excited about our new Hemp Chocolates (same!). But, we bet you’ve got questions about this slightly mysterious and definitely intriguing holistic wellness super-ingredient. So we asked Cassie Walker, author, self-described movement enthusiast, former Pilates instructor, professional budtender (more on that in a moment) and all-around wellness expert, to take us to school. Cassie, take it away…
Can you give us some background on what you do and how you found your way to this industry? What inspired you?
I am what the industry calls a “budtender” but I prefer the term “cannabis consultant.” In California, if you have a medical marijuana recommendation you can purchase cannabis products from a dispensary or collective. There, you meet a budtender (i.e. me) who should be able to answer any and all of your questions!
Basically, I spend my days talking with people—evaluating their needs and making recommendations, discussing the history and the legends of the cannabis plant and generally educating everyone, including myself and my coworkers, about the most recent research, local and federal laws and the plethora of products available.
Before I began working in cannabis I was a Pilates Instructor, and honestly, it was a very similar job (evaluating needs, making recommendations, educating people about holistic healthcare, etc…). I have used cannabis my entire adult life and access to the plant was definitely one reason that I chose to move to California. As soon as I stepped foot into a dispensary I knew it was going to change my life forever, and it did! I was hired only a few weeks later, and now I have a two-pronged approach to relieve back pain!
The collective I work for, Buds & Roses, has been a big inspiration for me. They have been open almost 10 years and are truly focused on the quality of their medicine and the wellbeing of their clientele. Cannabis is interesting because it is a relatively new, semi-legal industry, so there are few standards. Currently, I am working with the collective to become the first dispensary in Southern California to be certified “Patient-Focused” by Americans for Safe Access. It’s fun to build something with such personal, social and political aspects.
How would you explain CBD in the simplest terms? What is it exactly, and how does it work?
CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. I know that word sounds made up, but seriously, scientists discovered the mammalian endocannabinoid system by studying cannabis, so appropriately, they named everything within the system after it. We are not currently sure exactly how CBD works physiologically, because it has been historically difficult to fund cannabis research. However, we do know that it plays a regulatory role in many of the body’s systems—including, but not limited to, the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. It somehow helps them rediscover balance, or more technically, homeostasis.
It seems like CBD is gaining popularity right now, but of course people have been using the cannabis plant both ceremonially and for healing for centuries. Can you tell us anything about the history of its use?
For most of history, cannabis and hemp were used like many other plants: the leaves cultivated and used as a nutritional herb, the flowers processed into medical concoctions and the rest of it used for its strong fibers. Doses of cannabis large enough to induce psychoactivity were often reserved for spiritual and ceremonial use. When cannabis and hemp became illegal, everything changed! The plant was mostly cultivated by those using it as an illicit and psychoactive drug. Flowers had to be grown indoors to avoid detection, which altered their evolution completely. Furthermore, we pretty much stopped producing hemp, which we now know contains higher levels of CBD.
Ironically, CBD is currently gaining recognition as a medicine, but we ignored it for so long, focusing all of our efforts on THC (the cannabinoid that gets you “high”) that now the CBD-rich strains are more difficult and expensive to produce. Luckily, cultivators are working on it; demand should even out in a few years!
What are the main differences between CBD and THC?
The main difference is psychoactivity. CBD does not produce the “high” associated with cannabis—THC is responsible for that. Another main difference is location of receptors. THC has greater affinity to receptors in the nervous system where CBD has greater affinity everywhere else. For example, all cancer patients benefit from large doses of cannabinoids, but brain cancers respond better to THC while hormone-regulated cancers respond better to CBD. It is worth noting that the focus should not be their differences! CBD and THC work best in conjunction with one another, something known as “The Entourage Effect.” Finding the right ratio of cannabinoids is usually more medically beneficial than choosing one over the other.
Can you talk a bit about practical application of CBD? Who should take it, and what can they expect when they do?
Everyone! I am only joking a little. Who couldn’t use a little balance in the mind and body?! I think the most practical and far-reaching applications of CBD are treatment of pain and anxiety. I think the most impressive applications are treatment of cancer and epilepsy. Anyone suffering from these conditions should do at least some research before ruling out cannabis! The biggest thing to expect is that CBD doesn’t always work instantaneously. You can’t feel it “kick in” like THC. Most conditions require taking it systemically, in the form of an edible or tincture, consistently. I recommend trying it for a week or so and keeping a journal before deciding if it is right for you.
Can you discuss CBD dosage? For example, if I take 2mg, how will I feel, versus if I take a lot more than that? In other words, what's the spectrum of dosage and effects?
Dosage will be an experiment—it has less to do with one’s height/weight/nutrition/sex and more to do with the current state of one’s endocannabinoid system! Since we don’t currently have a test for that, honestly, you have to guess. You always want the smallest amount that creates the desired effects. So start with a low dose—2mg would be great—and then gradually increase until your journal reads, “way less ___ this week!” You shouldn’t “feel” anything (I would compare it to taking an ibuprofen- I don’t feel it, I just feel better!). Interestingly, we gain tolerance to cannabinoids quickly, so don’t be surprised if over time larger doses are required. The good news is withdrawal from cannabinoids is relatively painless, and 30 days without the plant will bring your tolerance back to baseline!
What are some examples of forms in which you can take CBD?
Ingestion methods include smoking, vaping, edibles (i.e. Sakara’s CBD chocolates), sublingual tinctures or sprays and topical applications. Smoking, vaping and topicals have more instant effects but only last 1-3 hours, edibles (which also include cannabinoids in pill form) can take up to 2 hours to become available in the body, but usually last longer, about 4-6 hours. Tinctures are in the middle, becoming available in 30-60 minutes and lasting 3-5 hours.
Have you noticed an uptick in therapeutic products containing hemp extracts, particularly CBD?
Yes! CBD is expensive because it is rare, but hemp also produces CBD and is cheaper to produce and currently legal. We carry some hemp-derived products such as dog treats and chewing gum at Buds & Roses, and everywhere hemp milks and seeds are growing in popularity. Some experts think that the CBD produced by cannabis is superior, but I think we should cultivate both and celebrate their differences.
Do you think CBD could reasonably be used as an alternative, natural healing therapy for any conditions? What are some examples?
Absolutely. Personally, I use CBD in low doses for anxiety, and for relief from menstrual cramps! I do see people who use it to manage chronic pain, control epilepsy and fight cancer.
In my opinion, the most powerful example of CBD as a healing therapy is the story of Dravet syndrome, a seizure disorder that often begins in infancy. Charlotte’s Web was a strain derived from hemp that gained fame for its incredible results and even changed laws surrounding CBD and hemp. The industry is far from perfect—we need more research—but that’s a trend that is continuing as well. I think the plant has proven more than worthy of our attention, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about it!
*For more healing wisdom and life musings from Cassie, visit her blog (or, better yet, visit her in person at Buds & Roses in Los Angeles!). And of course, get your Hemp Chocolates in the Clean Boutique here!