By Ellen Lenox Smith, Columnist
It can be overwhelming to try anything new, especially something like medical marijuana. Many people are afraid to try it – not only because of the stigma associated with cannabis – but the smell that comes from smoking it.
There are many different ways besides smoking that I have learned to administer medical marijuana. But remember, I am not an expert, just a woman who was desperately trying to find a solution as to how to address her pain. I have been learning this slowly, through reading, help from others, and trial and error.
Due to having sarcoidosis in my chest, smoking anything could be fatal. I had to find an alternative method that I could use to safely administer medical marijuana. Acting on the advice of a friend, I started my journey utilizing this medicine in an oil form.
I start by grinding up dried marijuana buds in a simple coffee grinder, always being careful to use only an indica strain of cannabis. Indica plants give you pain relief and allow you to rest. I take my oil at night to help me to sleep. If I ever took this same oil during the day, I would be sleepy and groggy.
Next, I heat up oil (I use extra virgin olive oil, but you can use other types you prefer) and when it gets hot, but not to a boil, I sprinkle the ground product over the oil. When you get it just right, there is a sound similar to putting an Alka Seltzer tablet in water, and you can hear the THC and CBD being released into the oil.
You then allow the oil to cool, strain it, and store it away from the sun. It lasts for a long time.
At night, one hour before I want to go to sleep, I take my medication. I presently use one teaspoon of the oil mixed with some applesauce or something I enjoy eating. You do not want to take this on an empty stomach.
You should start slowly with a small amount, and gradually introduce the medication to your body. If you need to increase the dose, you can add a quarter of a teaspoon until you have reached an appropriate level. When you can sleep through the night, and awake relatively clear headed and not groggy --then you know your dose is appropriate.
Keep in mind that by utilizing this method the medication takes time to kick in because it is being ingested. Plan your evening carefully and be sure to be ready for bed once you have medicated. It usually takes 30-60 minutes. We all react differently, so be safe.
If you want to make this oil even easier, then purchase a machine called Magical Butter, and it will do all the work for you after you grind, measure and plug it in. It costs about $175.
Most days, I do not need any medication after having had a good night’s sleep. But on the days I need something else for help, I find vaporizing simple and easy.
I have found two portable vaporizers that I love. One is called the Vape-or-Smoke and the other is named PAX. They require a small amount of marijuana, are small enough to fit in a purse, and are simple to use.
Many people use the Volcano, which is a larger, table top model seen in the picture to the right. There are so many types; you just have to decide what you are willing to spend. Some vaporizers cost several hundred dollars.
Now be careful, for you want to vaporize the correct type of cannabis. I could list all fifteen strains we grow, but I can tell you that there would be no guarantee they would be your magic.
The main thing to remember is if you are going to vaporize during the day, then you need to use a sativa strain of cannabis. This type of plant allows you to gain pain relief and also helps to stimulate you and keep you awake, not sleep like the indica plant does. If I vaporized an indica during the day, I would want to sleep. So be careful you have selected the correct type of plant.
Use a grinder to prepare the marijuana and follow the directions on the vaporizer. You will notice when you first use a vaporizer that it looks like you are blowing out smoke. However, what you are observing is actually a vapor.
I have permission from my pulmonologist to vaporize because it is safe to use. Take a simple hit, see how you feel in a few minutes, and if you need more to help with the pain, just use it one puff at a time to find your needed dose. This method should provide you with short, yet quick relief, unlike the oil that takes awhile to kick in, but last so much longer.
Sometimes I also use a tincture during the day. As with vaporizing, it is fast acting and also fast to leave the system. We have recipes for a few types. One is made with alcohol, such as lemon schnapps and it takes two months to cure. The other is made with glycerin and can be made in less than an hour in a crock pot or using the Magical Butter machine.
When making a tincture, you again have to be careful you are using the correct strain. I make day tincture, so I only use a sativa plant. Alcohol based tinctures require the product to be put into a jar, the alcohol of choice poured over it, and then covered tightly.
Twice a day, take a moment to shake the jar. After two months, the THC and CBD are released, and you should strain and store the liquid away from the sun.
The tincture can be taken one teaspoon at a time or with an eye-dropper, putting a few drops under the tongue or in the side of the cheek. You hold it there for about 20 seconds and then swallow. Feel free to repeat this every half hour. Remember, this is made with the plant that stimulates, so do not take at night!
The glycerin recipe is easy and can be made in an hour using a crock pot. You administer it the same way as above. The difference with this method is it has no alcohol and tastes sweet -- even though a diabetic can use it for it is not sugar based.
It’s just a matter of preference of which type you prefer and how long you want to wait for the finished product to use.
We have had good success using topical ointments. The recipes are simple and the results are amazing. I know people with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome who have turned their lives around with topicals.
All it requires is the tincture (not the oil), some bees wax, and then we add essential oils to mask any marijuana odor. Peppermint extract seems to be the favorite additive -- it provides a tingling sensation as it absorbs into the skin along with the cannabis.
Recipes for topicals, tinctures, and oils can all be found on our website at the end of this article.
As stated in the beginning, I am not an expert on all the various way to administer medical marijuana. Many people love using edibles, such as brownies and cookies, but I live with so many food allergies that I have no interest in even trying them.
It also concerns me, being so drug reactive, how much I should eat or not eat because I don’t feel the effects immediately. Like the oil, edibles are slow to activate and sometimes people eat more than they should -- and suddenly they’re shocked at how strange they feel.
Go slowly and give it time to kick in before deciding you need to eat more!
We try to steer people away from smoking to keep the lungs as safe as possible. However, if that is the only way that works for you and the smell is not an issue for you, then smoking is one of the faster ways to get pain relief from marijuana.
Ellen Lenox Smith suffers from Ehlers Danlos syndrome and sarcoidosis.
Ellen and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical marijuana advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical marijuana, visit their website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.
Medical marijuana is legal in 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, but is still technically illegal under federal law. Even in states where it is legal, doctors may frown upon marijuana and drop patients from their practice for using it.