Weed Between the Lines – Cultivating a New World for Medical Marijuana
Governor Ned Lamont has been vocal about ending the prohibition of recreational marijuana use in our state, yet federal law still treats cannabis as a highly addictive controlled substance, with the same classification as cocaine and heroin. The conflict between state and federal law seems tantamount to the contrast of old world with new. In one scene we see a seedy drug dealer selling dime bags on a corner and in another, a clean, organized state-of-the art dispensary. The image of a user transcends from hippie or street thug to clean-cut business people and grannies wearing track suits. This might leave some to wonder how our neighbors and friends really feel about marijuana legalization in our state.
Fairfielder Chris Mayle has a deep personal interest in medical marijuana. He and three partners opened Advanced Grow Labs (AGL) in 2014, which was recently acquired by a publicly traded company named Green Thumb industries. Located in West Haven, AGL researches, develops and produces medical marijuana products—nurturing the progress every step of the way—from plant to finished product.
Current occupation notwithstanding, Mayle is an interesting man to know—intelligent, insightful, and incredibly proud of the business he and his partners have built. He is also the son of Peter Mayle, the author of the New York Times bestseller, A Year in Provence. Mayle believes medical marijuana products are natural, plant-based pharmaceuticals that will continue to make a big impact on the health and comfort of the people who need them. “I think we have just scratched the tip of the iceberg on this,” he says passionately. “I think we will look back in 100 years and say, ‘I can’t believe we didn’t figure that one out sooner.’ ”
“Doctors are starting to believe that THC is having a profound impact on people with a variety of illnesses,” Mayle says. Sarena Kelly, an APRN with Advanced Rheumatology Center of Bridgeport, has seen the positive effects in her practice. “Researchers have identified two different types of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies that have a direct effect on pain and inflammation. Thus, the therapeutic effect of consuming exogenous cannabinoid is to directly reduce pain and inflammation.”
In fact, Connnecticut’s medical marijuana program has recently extended the medical indications for multiple rheumatic conditions. “In our practice CBD or cannabis therapeutics are considered a safe complementary treatment for patients who are receiving, have failed, or are intolerant of standard of care therapies,” Kelly says.
“We need more research to figure it out, but with diseases like Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, and ALS, CBD has been very helpful,” Mayle says. “CBD alone won’t do it. But CBD combined with THC is known to relieve symptoms of myriad diseases including MS, Crohn’s disease, HIV, glaucoma, cancer, and many more.”
One Fairfielder, Christy Damon Jeffremow, eschews the use of opiates and now relies on medical marijuana to help alleviate side effects from chemotherapy. “I have no shame shouting from the roof tops all of the ways that marijuana has helped me,” she says expressively. When she first got her prescription she went to the closest dispensary, located in Branford. “I was nervous at first, but everyone there was extremely helpful in suggesting which strains would work for me. They recommended a sativa “Tangerine Haze” for nausea and an Indica “Girl Scout Cookies” for migraines.”
Perhaps the best way to understand the art and science behind the business is to tour a facility like AGL. The first thing worth noting is the fanatical “operation-room-like” attention to cleanliness the lab requires. Each employee must stand in a high-pressure air shower every time they enter the lab to blast off bugs or other impurities. Each of the 50 employees receives a clean uniform they must wear each day. Access to the labs is monitored closely through digital key fobs and security cameras.
First on the tour is a meeting of the mother plants and their baby clones at several phases, and then, as Mayle says “you get to see where the magic and the medicine happens” in the grow room where strong artificial sunlight showers the plants, creating lush greenery with huge, sticky marijuana buds. From here they are harvested, then dried or processed.
The processing facility features cutting edge machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are operated by cheerful millennials who pridefully explain the science of their particular role. In the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, every baked treat is measured and created with precision to ensure each holds the proper dosage of medicine. “Connecticut is by far the most stringent of all states when it comes to purity and regulation for this medicine,” Mayle explains.
Fairfielders have mixed feelings about the legalization. While most are impressed with what they hear about its healing and medicinal properties, one Fairfield Dad disagrees. “I fear that recreational marijuana becoming legal will impact safety on the roads and the quality of work produced by our working population, who might not keep recreational use to after-work hours. Making marijuana legal for recreational use could also make it more available to younger people and send the message that’s “it’s fine.”
The use of cannabis to treat epilepsy and other neurological conditions was once a source of debate among medical professionals. Pediatricians and other clinicians have come to understand the benefits medical marijuana can have on patients with seizure disorders. On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the cannabidiol medication Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with two epilepsy syndromes: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome in people two years of age or older. Epidiolex represents a new option for children with these types of epilepsy.