How Breathing + Cold Exposure Can Improve Your Life

The Wim Hof method activates the mighty endocannabinoid system, the body’s wellness regulator.

Meg HartleyNov 10 · 4 min read

Photo via Instagram

This article was orignally published on ILLUMINATION, I very much appreciate claps (you can do 50!) and follows over @ Medium! 

There are lots of bizarre-sounding health fads out there, and many of them aren’t as effective as they are attention-catching, but I can say from personal experience that the Wim Hof Method (WHM) is one that actually works.

It’s just breathing exercises plus cold exposure, but it’s been hailed for improving, or even curing, all kinds of health conditions, as well as improving general health and well-being — and there’s a science to back it up.

Here’s a list of benes: More energy, boost the immune system, anti-inflammatory, better sleep, increase sports performance, workout recovery, autoimmune disease relief, arthritis relief, post-treatment Lyme relief, COPD management, migraine relief, MS management, asthma management, lower blood pressure, improve metabolism, and relief from fibromyalgia symptoms.

I’m in it mostly for that last one: helping ease the hellacious pain that is fibromyalgia.

I can’t report that I’m totally healed, but after 3–4 months of doing their daily breathing + cold shower technique, my pain decreased immensely. I’m unable to do the cold shower portion in the winter due to bone pain, but just the breathing alone still keeps fibro pain below a 3, when it was 8’s and up prior winters. And in the warmer months when I can do the cold shower portion, I don’t even think about fibromyalgia! It’s been a godsend.

Though this exercise is great for anyone with a body, I especially recommend that my fellow fibro-fighters and spoonies of all kinds — including mental health warriors and the neurodiverse — keep reading, even if your condition wasn’t listed this could help.

The breathing exercise also just feels great, delivering pleasant tingling sensations throughout your body; it’s both invigorating and relaxing, plus my back and neck usually pop with ease afterward.

The Science
Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

The reason the WHM is so effective is that it activates the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is best known for being the bodily system that works with cannabis, but it’s so much more.

The ECS is in charge of regulating virtually all of the other systems in our body, so it’s big deal, and it’s criminal that doctors don’t study it in school. Science has shown that atypical endocannabinoid levels are associated with many chronic illnesses, several of which are listed above, as well as forms of neurodiversity — like AutismADHDTourette’s, and others.

In 2018 researchers studied the WHM on Wim Hof himself, finding increased activity in the areas of the brain that are “associated with brain mechanisms for the control of sensory pain and is thought to implement this control through the release of opioids and [endo]cannabinoids.”

In other words, the breathing exercises and the cold exposure cause an increase in ECS activity, allowing it to better regulate the body’s functions and get unbalanced aspects in check.

Again from the study, “The practice of the Wim Hof Method may lead to tonic changes in autonomous brain mechanisms, a speculation that has implications for managing medical conditions ranging from diseases of the immune system to more intriguingly psychiatric conditions such as mood and anxiety disorders.”

How to do the Wim Hof Method
Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

Completing the WHM should take 15–20 minutes, all you need is this free video and a functional shower (or another form of cold exposure). The video will guide you through a 3-part breathing exercise, which will be repeated 3 times.

Here’s how it goes:

  • The first element involves circular breathing, which is simply breathing into your belly, letting it extend, then pulling that breath into your chest, then releasing. The video will take you through 30 reps, showing you an orange bubble that inflates and deflates with you to help keep time.
  • In the second bit, Hof will tell you to let all of your breath out and to refrain from breathing in for as long as you can. It’ll give you 60 seconds, then 1:25 as goals — but don’t feel pressured, just fast-forward the video when you need to breathe in, or pause if you can hold out longer.
  • The third portion will have you do the opposite, breathing in as much as you can, then holding the air in for 15 seconds before releasing — if you haven’t felt the great bodily feelings yet, they’ll come for that part.

Then it’s time to hop in a freezing cold shower! It’s hard at first, but they became refreshing for me after a few weeks — you’ll adjust to the cold temperatures too, you really will. (Which expands options for outdoor swimming fun…)

In the meantime, if the cold water is just too cold, try starting it at normal temps and then moving to cold. Start out with whatever your body can handle, and work up to 2–3 minutes.

Happy Hoff’ing!

Home DNA kits can help you pick a cannabis strain

Meg Hartley for Leafly
Published on September 23, 2020

EndoCanna Health’s DNA test. (Meg Hartley)

They say the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is as unique as a fingerprint, and cannabis affects us all differently. Company EndoCanna Health is exploring this by offering a DNA test that will show your body’s genetics and suggest a cannabis profile accordingly, as well as products for that profile. 

This tool wouldn’t be with us today without a real Bob Ross of a happy accident—the moment Len May, CEO of EndoCanna Health, accidentally found an effective way to manage his ADD. According to May: 

“I was kind of hanging out with some older kids, and they asked me if I wanted to smoke a cigarette—and I was like, yeah, you know, I’m dabbling with cigarettes, I’m gonna be cool—and the cigarette was actually filled with weed instead. After I got done coughing, I went back to class, and the windows in my head [referring to what it’s like to think with ADD] they sort of slowed down, and I could focus. So I found my medicine, it was mine.”

After getting kicked out of the house for cannabis—ironically, his parents now use his cannabis formulations—he became a cannabis activist and started working in medicinal genomics, which eventually led to EndoCanna Health, and the ability to use cannabis on a truly personal level.

How does EndoCanna Health’s DNA test work?

While receiving the $199 test can take a month or two, taking the test is a matter of seconds: carefully swab the inside of your cheek, then pop the swab into a tube. After registering your test into their HIPAA-compliant, fully anonymous portal, seal the swab and tube in a plastic bag, pop it into the provided paid envelope, and send ‘er off to the lab. If you have DNA data already, it’s faster and only costs $49.95.

Once your results are ready, log into your profile, which will have an itemized breakdown of your report and suggestions for types of cannabis. The report is broken down into:

  • Anxiety 
  • Cognitive function & behavior 
  • Digestive 
  • Drug dependence 
  • Drug metabolism 
  • Fitness 
  • Metabolism 
  • Mood 
  • Musculoskeletal & immune 
  • Pain, nausea, & neurologic 
  • Sleep 
  • THC side effects 
Digging into my report

Clicking through the various reports shows how cannabinoids interact with your genetic profile in specific ways. For instance, clicking on “Anxiety” brings three more reports: “Fear Extinction,” “PTSD,” and “Stress Reactivity.” 

Under “Fear Extinction,” for example, is this summary of my specific DNA marker findings, as well as suggestions for types of cannabis to use:

In this case, it suggests I start using high-CBD ratio products, as well as cannabis with terpene profiles that include linalool and beta-caryophyllene. These responses are called “formulations,” and my report suggests seven different ones for specific needs. 

Also, the Personalized Wellness Plan links to relevant scientific studies and provides a link to products that match the formulation.

CEO May explained that although EndoCanna Health does sell terpene blends used in some recommended products, they don’t profit directly from sales of products recommended on the Wellness Plan: “We look at certificates of analysis from different product manufacturers and run them to a matching algorithm, and we look for several things: Number one, we look for the percentage of CBD, THC; Secondary, terpene profile; and then some others, like essential oils.”

How to use your cannabis DNA test results

“The best way to get the most out of your results is to understand what your genetic predispositions are to avoid an adverse effect and then to understand which products you can actually take,” said May. 

With your test results, you’re equipped to treat symptomatic conditions based on specific genotypes in your body. “If you have a predisposition to anxiety or stress reactivity, you will know that there are certain cannabinoid and terpene profiles that can actually turn that genetic expression on,” said May. 

For example, if you have a marker associated with not producing endocannabinoids when anxious—as the body ought to—you’ll be able to know what kind of cannabis can be substituted effectively.

And it’s a living document as well, meaning it will evolve as research does. “We have a HIPAA-compliant portal that is dynamically built with lifetime updates, meaning that if there is any research that is happening now that gets published, we provide that as an update to your report on a lifetime basis. And we’re fully secure and anonymized. All the data resides on Amazon’s AWS; it’s fully encrypted,” said May.

May continued to speak on what’s ahead: “The future is this whole feedback loop: It’s the ability to be able to get a response from people, how you know product ‘A’ is really working for you, learn from your experience, and then be able to produce better individualized products.” 

EndoCanna Health is a research lab as well, working on studies all over the world. The company is also looking into expanding the use of epigenetic data and using biomarkers, like Fitbit info, to create a dashboard that will further personalize your experience.

Is the test worth it?

My take is probably obvious by now: I think this is a fantastic resource. I love that it breaks down which cannabinoids and terpenes will help various aspects of my body makeup. As a medical cannabis user, I find this especially relevant—it also confirmed I’m high-risk for flu severity—but these reports will also be helpful for anyone without any medical issues because we all have different bodies and cannabis will interact with each body differently.

EndoCanna Health is also looking to collaborate on research, even with competitors, because “the only way to remove this ridiculous stigma is through science,” said May.

I love it. Let’s science our way from being disregarded as just stoners to having data to improve specific conditions or for overall health, and knowing how best to use cannabis for those specifications. 

And all this magic started with a teenager trying to smoke a cig, and failing. C’est la vie, eh?

Does endocannabinoid deficiency play a role in these common illnesses?

Meg Hartley by Leafly
Published on June 7, 2019 • Last updated July 28, 2020

For many suffering from chronic illness, cannabis is a godsend. From those dealing with the wrath of inflamed digestive systems, to the ones combating global musculoskeletal pain, and the millions who report that the agony in their heads is just the beginning of their symptoms—cannabis can help these fighters with their load of physical woes.

The ECS is present in every major bodily system, which is how its dysfunction can theoretically cause such a variety of conditions—and how cannabis manages to treat them.

But why? To explain, we need to back up a bit. You probably know that cannabinoids (like the popular CBD and THC) interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), and that our bodies produce natural endocannabinoids that work with the ECS receptors to maintain health in all the other bodily systems. But do you know what happens when we don’t produce enough  of these endocannabinoids?

Neither does science; not really, anyways. But Ethan Russo M.D., Director of Research and Development of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute has theorized that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be the cause behind irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine, and other treatment-resistant syndromes. The ECS is present in every major bodily system, which is how its dysfunction can theoretically cause such a variety of conditions—and how cannabis manages to treat them.

These conditions, along with others that fall into this realm, are generally thought to be incurable and chronic, usually lasting for the rest of the sufferer’s life. I spoke with Dr. Russo about this matter, and he offered hope for chronic illness fighters, saying that since these conditions are generally acquired (rather than congenital, from birth), it seems to suggest an ECS disturbance is behind the illness. So hopefully it can be reversed in some fashion.

What is clinical endocannabinoid deficiency?

The theory of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) explains that these health conditions are due to a deficiency in endocannabinoid levels, akin to the way neurotransmitter deficiencies are behind other illnesses—like serotonin deficiency in depression. In other words, the theory posits that the cause of these syndromes is an insufficient amount of endocannabinoids functioning in the ECS.

The theory was first posed by Dr. Russo in 2001. Since then, he’s published several more well-cited papers on the topic.

“The vast majority of physicians just have no background in the ECS. It’s just not being taught.”

Dr. Russo’s 2016 paper, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered, revisited this issue after substantial evidence for the theory was recorded. Firstly, statistically significant differences of the endocannabinoid anandamide were recorded in the cerebrospinal fluid of migraine sufferers. (Similar results have also been found in fibromyalgia fighters.) Decreased ECS function was found in another condition thought to fall into the CED rubric, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And clinical data has shown that cannabinoid treatment and lifestyle changes aimed to promote the health of the ECS produced evidence for decreased pain, improved sleep, and other benefits in fighters—yet more evidence linking ECS dysfunction to these conditions.

From the paper: “If endocannabinoid function were decreased, it follows that a lowered pain threshold would be operative, along with derangements of digestion, mood, and sleep among the almost universal physiological systems subserved by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).”

The CED theory also posits that such deficiencies could be present due to genetic reasons or be the result of a disease or injury.

The study primarily focuses on IBS, migraine, and fibromyalgia—all of which involve increased pain sensations in the affected areas—but disorders that may fall under the CED rubric include: PTSD, glaucoma, cystic fibrosis, types of neuropathy, phantom limb pain, neonatal failure to thrive, infantile colic, menstrual pain, repetitive miscarriages, hyperemesis gravidarum, bipolar disease, and many others. Many of these diseases are little understood and remain treatment resistant.

How to improve ECS “tone”

Unfortunately, there’s no magic-pill solution here, but there are methods to improve your ECS “tone,” which is the term used to describe the functioning of this little-understood system. Dr. Russo had some advice on the matter—and it’s all about taking good care of yourself to help ensure that the ECS doesn’t get out of balance. Here’s some tips gleaned from his wisdom:

  • Heal your gut: There is increasing evidence that the gut microbiome, and the levels of bacteria within it, are a major regulator of the ECS. People should avoid unnecessary antibiotics, as these damage the natural microbiome balance in the gut. Also try pro- and prebiotics to get that biome in shape.
  • Eat right: Pro-inflammatory foods, such as fried foods with trans-fats, or too many calories in general are bad for the ECS. It’s also important to cultivate consciousness about what you’re eating—how you were taught might not be best what’s best for your body now.
  • Exercise: Sedentary behavior is harmful to the ECS, and exercise is essential to improving tone. However, many fighters of chronic illness will experience a flare in symptoms if they push it, so a low-impact aerobic program is recommended for many.
  • Look at family health: ECS dysfunction isn’t genetic like eye color, but there are genetic tendencies, so be extra careful if there are others in your family who are fighters of chronic illness. Also be mindful about unhealthy habits you may share.
  • Sleep well and stress less: The ECS loves balance, and a body that’s stressed out and unrested is great at throwing all kinds of systems out-of-whack. So get those eight hours and get real about managing stress.

Dr. Russo says that there’s no “cure” for these conditions, but following these guidelines offers the opportunity for a major intervention in symptoms—which can look a whole lot like a cure.

Looking forward

As for what’s next, Dr. Russo is working on getting studies funded and running to provide further information on this topic, especially in relation to ECS and the gut’s microbiome. He’s also working on a diagnostic test for fibromyalgia sufferers—something that would be life-changing for those searching for a diagnosis, or who need to prove that they really have it.

And for now, he says that there needs to be more awareness about the ECS.

“The vast majority of physicians just have no background in the ECS,” he said. “Despite it being discovered almost 30 years ago, there’s been very little uptake of it in med school curricula—it’s just not being taught, and whether that’s an unfortunate association with the word ‘cannabis’ is unclear. But clearly we have a knowledge deficit in regard to it, and until we rectify that we won’t have the ability to treat our patients more effectively.”

So the next time you’re at the doctor, whether you suffer from a chronic illness, or not—think about asking your doctor what you can do to improve the health of your endocannabinoid system, just to see if they know what it is. (And maybe put some pressure on them to find out.)

Why isn’t the endocannabinoid system taught in medical schools?

Meg Hartley for Leafly
Published on January 10, 2020· Last updated July 28, 2020

I am currently dependent on medical cannabis, and despite loving the plant, I’m kinda bitter about this fact. And it’s not the usual lamenting of “Why me?” that so often goes with illness; it’s because the medical professionals I encounter have little to offer about the origin and treatment of my disease, fibromyalgia. A major reason that they’re at a loss with it—and so many chronic illnesses like it—is because it may be sourced in the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

As a Leafly reader, you might already know that the ECS is a bodily system made of receptors located throughout the body and that it works with all other systems to maintain homeostasis, or optimal functionality.

But did you know that this vital system isn’t covered in medical school despite the fact that studies worldwide have been articulating its prowess since 1992?

Medical schools are “too full” for additional information

And do you know what their primary reason is? Because they say they “don’t have time to teach it.” That’s right—med schools are apparently no longer open to integrating new science into their curriculums. We reached out to many medical schools for comment, but repeated emails went without response.

“The typical response is, ‘What will we eliminate?’ However, that ignores the importance of this system and its fundamental role in regulating physiology in every aspect.”

According to Dr. Ethan Russo, board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, the common response is that they’d have to remove something else from the curriculum to make room for it.

According to Dr. Russo, “The medical curriculum is just jam-packed. I went to med school back in the ‘70s, and even at that point there was just no slack in the schedule. What one has to cram into particularly the first couple years of basic science, is rather astounding. And now there’s been an additional 40 years of scientific discovery that also has to be incorporated. Administrators are always going to be defensive about that. The typical response is, ‘What will we eliminate?’ However, that ignores the scientific importance of this system and its fundamental role in regulating physiology in every aspect.”

One would hope that the response to realizing there is a vital bodily system missing from medical school curriculum would be something thoughtful, like, “This system works with all of the other bodily systems and is essential to maintaining health in the body—maybe it’s time to reassess and reorganize.”

But, alas, the party-line solution is actually to just not teach another piece of medicine, which would remove it from practice. It’s as if medicine goes into a tool belt, and rather than reconfiguring a more suitable tool belt when full—they’d instead just toss aside an irreplaceable tool.

The ECS is integral to the function of all the “major” systems

Dr. Russo says that the idea of not educating doctors on the ECS is incomprehensible because it is fundamental to how our bodies work.“A prime example is that there are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are for all of the neurotransmitters put together,” he said.

“One could easily argue that you can’t understand how neurotransmitters in the brain work without knowledge of the endocannabinoid system.”

As you’ve probably ascertained, this is a fact with significant implications. He continues, “One could easily argue that you can’t understand how neurotransmitters in the brain work without knowledge of the ECS.” Additionally, he confirmed this could also imply that there are more opportunities for cannabis to work with the body than pharmaceuticals.

The ECS is also responsible for maintaining the homeostasis of all of the other bodily systems—which is a fancy way of saying that it keeps balance in the other systems, ensuring that they are functioning optimally. It’s also often described simply as the way the brain communicates with the body. Or, as Russo put it in our interview, “Everything in the body is connected, and this is the glue.”

Because the ECS appears to regulate actually recognized bodily systems, many things go awry when it doesn’t function correctly. Endocannabinoids have been observed to directly and indirectly influence a variety of physiological systems that control appetite, pain, inflammation, thermoregulation, intraocular pressure, sensation, muscle control, energy balance, metabolism, sleep health, stress responses, motivation/reward, mood, and memory.

These functions are not minor details—if you were to lose even a single one of these abilities, it could significantly alter your daily life. Chronic illnesses, which last three months or longer and are generally considered “incurable,” affect 40% of Americans. Why is it that so many of our bodies are afflicted with conditions that modern medicine cannot do anything to absolve?

Could it be that we’re missing a crucial piece of the puzzle? Surely, there must be something else going on.

What do cannabis and pharmaceuticals have to do with it?

When asked why the ECS isn’t being taught in medical schools, another common response was that there are presently very few medications that interact with it—but how will there ever be if the medical community doesn’t even regard it in the first place? And why does it matter, anyways—do doctors only need to know about bodily systems that can be treated via the pharmaceutical industry? (And even the answer there is a plutocratic ‘yes,’ then do the available synthetic cannabinoids not count?)

These are apparently not questions that are often discussed in the medical community. The basic consensus seems to be that though medical students ought to be taught about all illnesses—not just those that there are presently pharmaceuticals for—that’s simply not how it works.

Another factor is, of course, the federally-illegal status of the plant that works so adeptly with the ECS; still holding its ancient and never-been-true title of ”Schedule I–Drug with no currently accepted medical use.” But since the ECS generally functions without the help of cannabis (thanks to our naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoids), one wonders why this is show-stoppingly relevant—again, shouldn’t doctors need to know about bodily systems that don’t already have viable medications? Isn’t that all the more reason they should be trained in what we do know about the ECS, so they may help patients keep the vulnerable system unharmed?

This next revelation will not surprise you: According to Russo, stigma around cannabis and a lack of funding as a result also appear to play a role in this reckless and willful knowledge gap, “One has to imagine that a prejudice against cannabis, fear of cannabis, and lack of funding is spilling over into a pejorative effect on education about the endocannabinoid system.”

Hope and change

Even though Russo says that grad students rarely want him as a mentor, some colleges are hedging their bets that tomorrow’s generation will have a different take. The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is one such school, now offering a Master of Science (MS) in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. Leafly talked with Andrew Coop, PhD, their Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, who seems hopeful that logical changes in this area are on the way.

“The reason we started the program was because so few programs focus on the health benefits of marijuana,” Coop said, “the pluses, the minuses, the strengths, where further research needs to go, where the indications have good strong evidence, where there is no strong evidence. We are teaching 150 students at the master’s level to understand all aspects—but also to be able to critically assess what the current state of the art says and doesn’t say, and what further studies need to be formed so that we can move forward in a systematic manner.”

Their twelve courses cover a comprehensive range of topics, from an introduction to the history and culture of cannabis, to the highly technical “Genomics and Pharmacognosy,” to “Expert Seminars and Case Studies” where students identify knowledge gaps in the science and design an educational intervention.

Coop is looking forward to more sweeping changes in policy and legislation. “To me, the bottom line is that we need change at the federal level, such as the MORE Act, before we’ll see more med schools include it in their curriculum,” he said. “Once we get things such as the decriminalization of marjiuana, I predict more schools will include it. There is a want and a need for education in all aspects of marijuana.”

Until that day, those of us with diseases suspected to be sourced in ECS malfunction must wait. One day, researchers like Dr. Russo will have the resources to provide necessities like a diagnostic test for fibromyalgia, something he’s waiting on funding to get rolling on—a development that could change the lives of millions.

As Dr. Russo told us, “This failure to address ECS education appropriately is in unforgivable breach of scientific trust and a major disservice to the public health.” 

Cannabis pioneer launches company to unlock the potentials of the endocannabinoid system

Meg Hartley for Leafly
Published on June 29, 2020· Last updated July 28, 2020

Scientists have been articulating the prowess of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) since the ‘80s, yet nearly four decades later, the ECS is hardly covered in medical schools, despite dysfunction of the system being linked to many illnesses. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system of neurotransmitters and receptors that enables our bodies to benefit from cannabis, and even though medical cannabis is legal in most states, there are only a couple pharmaceuticals on the market that make use of it.

Cannabis has been studied for even longer than the ECS, but we still use the plant rather simplistically. Even though there are many components to cannabis—cannabinoids, terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, oh my!—the industry mostly focuses on the cannabinoids THC and CBD, when over 100 compounds have been discovered in the plant.

Luckily, there are people on a mission to elevate this state of affairs. Acclaimed endocannabinoid scientist Ethan Russo has partnered with business aficionado Nishi Whiteley to create CReDO Science, and they’re off to a running start. Their research focuses on how to apply cannabis to balance the health of the ECS and help treat disease, and by creating market-disrupting technologies that utilize this research to create solutions and products (five examples coming up).

CReDO’s mission

As a Leafly reader, you may be familiar with the work of Ethan Russo, as he has been featured in many of our articles (he’s a bit of an ECS rock star). He’s nearing 25 years of experience researching the ECS and cannabis and is also a board-certified neurologist.

The mission of his new company CReDO is, “To commercialize patented products generated from our investigation of the cannabis plant and the endocannabinoid system (ECS), making cannabis safer and better.” According to the company’s website, their moniker reflects the philosophy of innovation as well: “In Latin, CReDO means ‘I believe.’ We maintain that ‘the proof is out there’ for cannabis/hemp-based solutions for better living.”

Talking about the stigma of cannabis and not taking advantage of its potential, Russo said: “What we’re doing is trying to treat disease with at least one of our hands behind our back. It’s a situation where we’re not applying the requisite knowledge to the problems at hand.”

He also went on to say: “It really points out how politics interfere with science and the public good; in this instance, because we’ve really denied ourselves the full benefits of a plant that has so much to offer medically, nutritionally, and as an aid to better living.”

Russo is joined by Nishi Whiteley, a cannabis author and educator with 30 years of business development experience. In addition to stunning business credentials, she is an advocate for cannabis law reform and sits on the board of the Foundation for an Informed Texas, a cannabis advocacy organization.

Products for the endocannabinoid system

The initial efforts of CReDO Science will concentrate in a few areas for which provisional patents are in progress. Russo shared they cannot get too specific when describing most of the products, as they’re still in development: “We’ve got a lot of convergent evolution in science—that’s a fancy way of saying that you can’t have an original idea for long before somebody else will think of the same thing.” But they were able to give us some general scoops.

Here’s what they can reveal:

Disinfectant that works on coronavirus

This product is a disinfectant that’s efficacious enough to kill coronavirus, a great example of using cannabis in a novel fashion, taking advantage of its antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties in an industrial way. “I personally don’t like Clorox, the smell gives me headaches. But there are products that can be made with cannabis in the disinfectant area that would be, I think, aesthetically nicer and potentially even organic,” said Russo.

Diagnostics for diseases of the ECS

CReDO is working on two projects that would diagnose medical conditions related to the ECS. “If there is the potential for products or treatments or profit down the road, that’s nice, but that’s not what keeps me up at night thinking about things; it’s ideas that could help explain what ails us, and what to do about it,” said Russo.

Canna nutritional line

Another product of theirs is a line of cannabis-derived nutritional products (think nutritional bars and capsules) expected to have broad anti-inflammatory effects. The ingredients remain a proprietary secret for now, but they hope to be on the market with full disclosure in the next two to three years. “These would be products that should be saleable anywhere in the US and internationally because they won’t involve the inclusion of nasty [he laughs] THC or anything,” said Russo.

Extraction technique

They’re also working on cannabis extraction hardware that will use a technique to keep more aspects of the plant. “I’m a big proponent of the entourage effect, which requires synergy of terpenoids and cannabinoid components. And yet, many of the extraction techniques really end up wasting, particularly the terpenoid fraction,” said Russo.

This technique would create cannabis products that take advantage of the full power and spectrum of cannabis’ value, allowing us to benefit from terpenes, underutilized cannabinoids, and other components.

Over-the-counter medicine

They had to stay pretty tight-lipped about this one, but according to Russo: “There is a really, really common condition where current products are either toxic or not very effective. We think that we’ve got an effective approach with a cannabis-based product that’s not going to be psychoactive, not subject to any abuse potential.”

Can orgasms help your endocannabinoid system?

Meg Hartley for Leafly
Published on May 12, 2020 • Last updated July 28, 2020

What if sufferers of certain health conditions having to do with endocannabinoid deficiency were able to heal through the power of orgasm? That question has been on my mind since reading a 2017 study which hypothesizes that endocannabinoids can play an important role in the sexual response cycle.

Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that the body produces which bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors, much like THC and CBD in cannabis. Specifically, the above study showed significant increases in the body’s levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG post-orgasm—which could help contribute to the delightful experience we colloquially refer to as “post-coital bliss.”

So, if you’re trying to improve the functioning of your endocannabinoid system (ECS) and thereby related health issues, should you be prioritizing regular orgasms in your self-care routine? I delved into this question with a couple cannabis experts to find out.

Getting down to raise endocannabinoid levels

Dr. Genester Wilson-King, MD, obstetrician, gynecologist, and cannabis advocate, was also intrigued by the 2-AG study mentioned above. “Endocannabinoids … might play a very important role in the sexual response cycle, leading to maybe a better understanding and treatment of sexual dysfunction,” she said.

When asked if regular orgasms could help ECS function, Dr. Dustin Sulak, D.O., said: “There’s a little bit of evidence supporting this theory, not conclusive; but the ECS does well with similar stimuli that create a short-term strong production of cannabinoids, like exercise.”

I asked Sulak if orgasms could be a “double-whammy” since they stimulate the ECS by both being an enjoyable exercise as well as directly boosting endocannabinoid levels: “Absolutely. Sex [with orgasm] is the double-whammy for sure. It’s a triple or quadruple whammy. It involves touch. In animals, touch and social grooming are strong ways to stimulate endocannabinoid release. I think many people don’t have enough social grooming activities or physically touch each other on a daily basis, but feel better when they do.”

Doc’s orders

So how often should one be taking advantage of these benefits? According to Dr. Sulak, “I would suggest at least once a day doing something that strongly stimulates endocannabinoid activity. And so, perhaps if it’s a day when somebody didn’t have a chance to exercise, or dance, or sing, and the day’s winding down, and they realize, well, it’s time for a different type of practice, I would say go for it.”

Women could actually benefit from more than one orgasm per day. “I think experts in the orgasm field would recommend, especially for women, to have several per day for optimal health. And you know, typically for women, one orgasm can follow the next. And so there’s not a good reason for stopping at one,” he said.

Dr. Wilson-King noted that cannabis can potentially help bring back multiples for some women: “I don’t know that it can help a person who is not multi-orgasmic, but a person who has had multiple orgasms in the past, certainly using cannabis can enhance that.”

But it’s different for the fellas. “What a lot of men don’t realize is that they can absolutely have orgasms without ejaculating,” said Dr. Sulak. “The practice is essentially to approach orgasm very slowly and cautiously, then wait in that space that leads up to orgasm. It starts out feeling like a very narrow space where they kind of get right up to the edge and then fall over. With enough practice that edge can become miles long, and they can remain at the edge and have all sorts of orgasmic feelings and actual contractions in their body without ejaculation.”

Self-lovin’ and wellness

The aforementioned study on 2-AG studied masturbation, and both Drs. Sulak and Wilson-King stressed that one does not need to be partnered to enjoy the benefits regular orgasms can have for the endocannabinoid system.

Dr. Sulak elaborates, saying “I really want to encourage people to not feel like they need a partner to achieve the health benefits. So many people think, what am I going to do right now? Oh, I’ll either jog or maybe I’ll meditate or something. And the idea of a sexual health practice probably doesn’t even occur to most of the readers.”

So, the next time you’ve got a free hour to engage in some wellness, remember Dr. Sulak’s words: “Meditation, running, and masturbation can all produce increased endocannabinoid levels and states of euphoria and mental clarity.”

Cannabis can help release endocannabinoids

While Dr. Wilson-King doesn’t recommend cannabis first for help in getting to orgasm, she said it absolutely can help for some: “Cannabis is a libido enhancer. It helps you to relax, helps you to have maybe more body awareness and sensitivity … Pharmaceuticals are usually single molecular substances that have one effect, whereas cannabis is multifactorial, such that it affects the brain, it affects the body, it affects the vaginal tissue, it affects the sensitivity. The advantage of cannabis is its multi-pronged approach.”

She also noted that cannabis can do wonders for women who deal with painful sex, saying, “It can relax the vaginal muscles, relax the mind, and has the patient focus more on her partner and her body as opposed to worrying about pain.”

As for how much to use, she said, “Using cannabis for sex is generally dose-related, especially for men—lower doses really help, whereas higher doses, you get too stimulated and can’t focus and may have difficulty, men more than women, but low doses are effective for both.”

Dr. Sulak is on the same page. “The goal I think for someone that is really wanting to use this information for health would be to consider using a little THC at a low dose to help them kind of change their gears and compartmentalize the rest of their day, creating a sacred space and a new mindset as they approach the practice. But not to use so much THC that they’re very intoxicated. Rather, they should be trying to use their own equipment—to get high on their own supply,” he said, referencing tapping into one’s own endocannabinoids.

The stoner’s guide to the Wim Hof Method

By Meg Hartley
Published on April 23, 2020 • Last updated July 28, 2020

Have you heard of the Wim Hof Method (WHM)? It’s a wellness practice that involves concentrated breathing exercises followed by exposure to extremely cold temperatures, and it’s said to result in all kinds of health benefits. It has also led to Hof himself breaking many world records for cold temperature exposure. 

This is pretty cool on its own, but it also turns out that WHM can raise the levels of your body’s natural cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids.

Like many, I was introduced to the eccentrically delightful Wim Hof—often called “The Iceman”—via the recent Netflix documentary, which features a group of Goop Lab staffers doing an ice-cold plunge after breathing exercises. That week, a doctor I interviewed for a Leafly article coincidentally brought up WHM too, suggesting it might help me manage fibromyalgia symptoms because it raises natural cannabinoid levels. 

As you might know, endocannabinoids are the body’s version of the cannabinoids in cannabis; they interact with the receptors in our endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our bodies to regulate a large variety of functions and help keep the body in balance, so all kinds of things can go awry when your body isn’t making enough of them. It seems that breathing exercises, plus freezing water, can help.

The science of The Iceman

Professors at Wayne State University published a study on how The Iceman’s brain responds during controlled whole-body cold-temperature exposure. They studied Hof and found stunning differences in how he reacted to cold exposure compared to other healthy adults.

They expected him to show significant brain activations where the brain’s higher thermoregulatory centers are located, but instead they observed differences located in his upper brainstem. “This area is associated with brain mechanisms for the control of sensory pain and is thought to implement this control through the release of opioids and cannabinoids,” said Otto Muzik, PhD, one of the authors of the study, in a statement

The study explains that the release of endocannabinoids due to WHM leads to a state of relaxed, euphoric well-being: “This mechanism might mediate the release of endogenous opioids/cannabinoids in both the periphery (via the descending pain/cold suppression pathway) and the CNS … leading to a feeling of euphoria, anxiolysis [decreased anxiety] and a sense of well-being, which further promotes an attentionally focused (mindful) state that augments the analgesic effect of endocannabinoids.” 

Unfortunately, for those of us hoping to get ECS perks with the breathing exercises minus the freezing temperatures, the study says that the freezing element is needed to really get the ECS pumping: “Our results agree with earlier studies showing that aversive stimuli to the skin (thermal, mechanical or chemical) are particularly potent in activating endocannabinoid anti-nociception [blocking the detection of painful stimuli] in higher cognitive areas.” 

The study also relates the boost to the ECS as a hope for healing autoimmune disease: “Moreover, endocannabinoids inhibit oedema [swelling] and inflammation … which agrees well with previous reports that describe a decreased immune response associated with WHM practice.” 

This is why that doctor suggested WHM could help me manage fibromyalgia, as well as other diseases thought to be centered around the autoimmune response.

How to do the Wim Hof Method

Reaping the benefits of the Wim Hof Method is pretty darn simple. All you need to do is get comfortable, sitting or lying down, and follow the instructions in this 11-minute video: 

Take 30 deep breaths, doing something called wave breathing: fill your stomach fully with air, then your lungs, then release through your mouth.

After the 30th breath, breathe out all air and try to hold it for one minute. When the minute is up, breathe in and spend fifteen seconds with your lungs filled to capacity, then release—this is the glorious time when I start to feel those endocannabinoids roll in. 

Just as what happens with herb, my fibromyalgia pain is lessened in a whooooosh that causes such relief, it’s euphoric. With WHM, this moment’s relief is also accompanied by an intoxicating sensation that I rarely get from cannabis (as a full-time medical user).

And then you start again. The second and third rounds have you hold your breath out for 90 seconds, but it’s important to not push it, and take a breath if you need to. I’ve noticed that the pleasurable sensations tend to increase with each round, which is fun. 

After the third round comes the cold shower. I like to do a dry brush before mine, which helps detoxify the body and also feels really nice after all that tingly-making breathwork. 

Let’s get Hoffy

So, it’s been one month of daily Wim Hoffing it up, and I must say: I still do not like cold showers. However, I do already see the benefits of taking them, as they leave my energy stores a bit rejuvenated and my skin feeling weirdly awesome for the rest of the day. 

I started with just barely making it through a minute-long cold shower, and now my longest time is a little over three minutes—I’m digging the self-competition element to WHM as well.

And the team at Wim Hof actually put out a free Quarantine Challenge just for the current situation, which takes this exercise through 40 days, ending in 5 rounds of breathing and a two-minute cold shower. Hey, what else are you gonna do? Plus, what better time to boost your immune system?

Best wishes on this journey, and as Hof says, “enjoy getting high on your own supply.”  

Does cannabis make you poo?

By Meg Hartley
Published on April 13, 2020 • Last updated July 28, 2020

Have you ever sat down for a nice session but after a few tokes suddenly have to get up to hit the bathroom? I noticed a connection so I asked the internet, which provided abundant anecdotal evidence, proving I wasn’t alone in my pondering. After I started peeking into what science had to say on the matter, my curiosity only increased.

I did a deep dive into studies on the subject, as well as consulted a couple experts, and it turns out the connection between smoking a bowl and going #2 is no coincidence. Between cannabis calming our nerves, its effect on the gut’s microbiome, and the endocannabinoid system being involved in the activity in this department, it looks like weed can, indeed, make us doodie.

Too stressed to go

I spoke with medical cannabis expert and integrative medicine physician Dustin Sulak, D.O. “Endocannabinoids absolutely do affect motility, both directly and indirectly. The most powerful way in which cannabis could help a person defecate is by helping them to relax and get into a more parasympathetic state,” said Sulak.

Another way to think of a parasympathetic state is “rest and digest,” with defecation being part of the digest aspect. This is opposed to the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares the body to act quickly. There is an evolutionary reason for not being able to poo while in a fight-or-flight state enacted by the sympathetic nervous system: “If we’re escaping from a bear attacking us, we don’t want to have to defecate,” said Sulak.

He continued, “Conversely, when it’s time to relax and empty our bowels, we don’t want to feel threatened. That has to happen in a place where we feel comfortable. But, unfortunately, a lot of people are taking their stressors around with them, even into the bathroom, with their phones or just in their minds, remaining stressed out, feeling threatened in some way.” 

But cannabis, and endocannabinoids that our bodies produce, can help. “Our inner pharmacy’s version of cannabis, the endocannabinoids, and herbal cannabis, have the ability to suppress this excessive sympathetic activity. So if the fight-or-flight response is turned on too strongly, the right dose of cannabis can suppress it. This is obvious to people who use cannabis to help them relax and find relief from anxiety. The same mechanism would allow someone to shift into rest and digest, or parasympathetic dominance, and get the job done,” he said.

The Goldilocks zone

Endocannabinoids help keep the body in balance. One of those endocannabinoids, 2-AG, is an important physiologic regulator of gastrointestinal motility—i.e., pooping—and behaves like THC. “That’s one of our body’s signaling molecules that mimics THC, or THC mimics it. 2-AG is active in regulating the sympathetic and parasympathetic influence on the gut, and in the gut itself, where it suppresses excessive activity and brings the system into balance,” said Sulak. 

So in this way, cannabis could lead to a deuce by helping keep our nervous system and our gut in the “Goldilocks zone,” or the healthy range of activity.

Cannabis can also help someone get into the needed relaxed state by relieving pain. “When people are in chronic pain, even if it has nothing to do with the rectum—if it’s their foot or their leg or their head—that still creates a kind of threatening internal state. So it can be hard when in pain or feeling anxiety to relax enough to use the bathroom. Cannabis can be very useful for that,” said Sulak.

Dr. Sulak concluded with a word of caution: “For people with constipation not related to stress or pain, cannabis could potentially worsen the issue because it can suppress muscular contractions and secretion in the colon, the same ways in which it can help with diarrhea.”

More on cannabis and BMs

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is also integral to the brain-gut axis, which modulates activity in this realm, including helping people poop. This 2016 study says that the ECS is “An important physiologic regulator of gastrointestinal motility,” meaning bowel movements.

Foremost psychopharmacology researcher Ethan Russo, M.D., also told us, “A lot of people note easier bowel movements after cannabis. This can alleviate both constipation or diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome, a presumptive clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. THC also positively alters the gut microbiome and this effect should not be discredited.”

Additionally, a 2019 study found that cannabis consumption was associated with a 30% decrease in constipation. 

So, if you’ve ever wondered if there’s a connection between enjoying herb and needing to head for a #2—‘tis not in your imagination. Next time you need a little help, maybe try sparking up a doobie so you can dookie. 

Stay regular, friends.

What it’s like to be a kid who medicates with cannabis

Meg Hartley for Leafly
Published on January 15, 2020 • Last updated July 28, 2020

It’s awful that there are sick children in this world, that someone so young could already be tied to grown-up matters like mandatory daily medicine. Unfortunately, it’s a very real situation for many families, and its complications are made considerably more so when that medicine is federally illegal. But, due to the extensive nature of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), cannabis can be used to fight many diseases—and many of these ailments can affect people of all ages, not just adults.

We talked with a couple of families with children who regularly medicate with cannabis, aiming to get a picture at what this lifestyle is like, what kinds of challenges they face, and how cannabis has transformed their lives. We discovered stunning stories of improvement, innovation, and a couple of families who’ll make you wish there was a bigger word for “inspiring.”

Sophie Ryan, optic pathway glioma brain tumor

medical marijuana patient, children who medicate with cannabis, children and marijuana(Courtesy of the Ryan family)

Sophie Ryan was born October 3, 2012 a perfectly healthy baby girl. But it wasn’t even a year before an MRI diagnosed an optic pathway glioma brain tumor, which doesn’t normally shrink with chemo. Things didn’t look good. Then her parents created a Facebook page called “Prayers for Sophie,” and a friend put them in touch with Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, who were filming Weed the People, a documentary about the possibility of cannabis oils treating cancer in pediatric patients.

In a phone interview with Leafly, Sophie’s mother, Tracy, told us that Sophie took her first cannabis medicine at 9 months old in the film—a drop of high-concentrated CBD and THC oil on top of her food before beginning chemo treatment. Because Sophie was just a baby, they had to watch her mannerisms to try and gauge dosing, but the only side effects they’ve noted was sleepiness at the beginning, and a higher appetite, which is perfect for a chemo patient.

After 13 months of chemo and high doses of cannabis oil, Sophie’s “unshrinkable” brain tumor was about 85 to 90% gone. Tracy shared with Leafly that even Sophie’s doctor, who was originally skeptical about cannabis, had to concede that cannabis must have helped.

Its’ not just in results that Sophie’s cannabis treatment differs from chemo, her parents note. In addition to being more expensive, Tracy said, “Chemotherapy makes you very sick, it destroys your immune system, it causes organ failure. They lose their hair, they get sores all over their bodies and inside their mouths… Sophie was getting chemo burns when she was in diapers and we’d have to use gloves so we wouldn’t get the chemo acids on our skin—it’s that horrible. And then you have cannabis, and it’s doing the opposite of all that.”

Fortunately, Tracy hasn’t gotten much judgement. She works to ensure that she’s a trusted voice, making sure she’s on top of research and bringing Sophie to lots of speaking engagements to show proof of how healthy she feels, despite chemo. (Tracy said Sophie is a natural and loves doing these events, with rare exceptions.)

After discovering the incredible ways cannabis could heal, Tracy decided to create her own business, CannaKids. They’re now selling high quality tinctures and syringes throughout California and are working on expanding to Canada and Australia, as well as starting a nationwide hemp line with 6-9 cannabinoids. Like many, legalization presented some significant issues, with Tracy sharing that her business “almost didn’t survive the costs and demands of legalization.” For instance, they have had to change the name because of laws about marketing cannabis to children; CKSoul is the new product line, and CannaKids will continue to operate as a non-commercial resource.

They’ve also started a foundation called Saving Sophie, which has raised $60k but Tracy said, “That’s like a week’s work in a laboratory. They’ll need about a half million to get rolling.” And the Ryans have also started a podcast to promote awareness and raise funds—check it out here.

Coltyn Turner, Crohn’s disease

medical marijuana patient, children who medicate with cannabis, children and marijuana(Courtesy of the Turner family)

Coltyn Turner developed Crohn’s disease when he was 11 years old, after a near-drowning incident led to a bacterial infection. For the next three years, he’d try various traditional treatments, which he and his mother, Wendy, say nearly killed him. In a phone interview with Leafly, Coltyn shared, “The pharmaceutical medications that I’ve tried [range from] pills that do absolutely nothing, to shots that gave me nosebleeds, profusely, for 15 minutes straight, [to] another chemo-like infusion treatment gave me medically-induced rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.”

You read that right. Coltyn and his family report that traditional medications left him with two more chronic illnesses, each capable of rendering a person debilitatingly ill on their own. Yet, there’s more.

“When I got introduced to cannabis, within the first two weeks I was already out of my wheelchair. I felt like a normal kid again.”

They eventually tried cannabis. “When I got introduced to cannabis, within the first two weeks I was already out of my wheelchair. I felt like a normal kid again,” Coltyn said.

And he’s got proof of the positive changes. “I [went from] 22 centimeters of inflamed bowel with skin lesions, with everything you can imagine—inflammation, ulcers, scar tissue, granulation lymphoma—to a normal colon; no active Crohn’s disease, just using cannabis. So not only did cannabis treat the pain, which is important, but it also took care of what was causing the pain. It also helps with the RA and lupus I got from the [pharmaceuticals].”

medical marijuana patient, children who medicate with cannabis, children and marijuana(Courtesy of the Turner family)

Coltyn is now 19 years old, having been on cannabis for five years. And his Crohn’s is in remission; they report hardly ever having to go to the doctor these days. He still occasionally gets symptom flares, but is able to control them by upping his cannabis dose during those times. They’ve a great handle on it these days, but they say there were some challenges early on.

Wendy said the main challenge is dosing and ensuring that Coltyn gets the right amount of cannabinoids without getting high. “We are constantly like, ‘How are you doing, how are you feeling?’” she said. “He must be really, really sick of it.”

But Coltyn isn’t phased. “Yeah, I am, but at the same time it’s very important because a lot of patients don’t really know their dose, especially earlier in their cannabis treatment, and you’re changing it pretty frequently,” he said. “When I first moved out of Colorado to start cannabis treatment, we kept a journal and wrote down every little thing that happened: what I ate that day, how many times I went to the bathroom–if I had a stick of gum, we wrote it down. Unfortunately that’s the only way to develop a regimen for people, through trial and error, trying everything under the sun until you find something that works best for you.”

Wendy shares that there were some learning curves on their path. “Sometimes we mess up. For instance, now we know to never give a Crohn’s patient THCV.”

Coltyn adds, “What we know about THCV is that it’s an appetite suppressant. For someone with a wasting syndrome, that’s not a good cannabinoid to have. But we didn’t figure it out until I lost 10 pounds. That’s the struggle with there being no research or anything.”

As far as medicating during school, Coltyn said, “Fortunately, I’ve been homeschooled my whole life, but there are kids who are having trouble having medicine in school. A lot of the time they aren’t even allowed to have it 200 or 1,000 feet from a school. There are kids with seizures who go to public school, and if they need a rescue med, they have to have their parent come to school, pick them up, drive off campus, administer it, then bring them back.”

Wendy said that legalization has affected this issue negatively. “These newly legalized states emerging and creating regulation issues in schools with zero tolerance laws. Coltyn attended school for 38 days and we took him out because we couldn’t deal with it. There’s not a feasible option for it, not even in college.”

She added that there is a student suing their school over this issue, and said it’s crazy that pharmaceuticals, which can kill you if abused, are allowed in school, but cannabis isn’t.

Wendy said that without interstate commerce, medicating can also be a challenging task when getting medical care. “Every person who has a medical card is a prisoner of that state,” she said. “Most of Coltyn’s doctors are across state lines in Missouri and the second we cross that state line, Coltyn is illegal. And if he were to break his arm or something, I would have to tell them that he’s medicated with THC. And I cannot give him those meds for Crohn’s disease if he were to have to stay in the hospital for this broken arm for more than a day. So, there we go, into a flare with his Crohn’s disease.”

When asked if they’ve faced much judgement for medicating Coltyn with cannabis, they happily report that they don’t. Tracy shared that it probably has a lot to do with her being an intimidating mom, ready to get into the facts and statistics with doctors and other medical professionals as needed.

medical marijuana patient, children who medicate with cannabis, children and marijuana(Courtesy of the Turner family)

And their advocacy for cannabis doesn’t end there. The Coltyn Turner Foundation is focused on research and raising the funds to get it done–their first project is a survey of Crohn’s patients using cannabis, which is aimed at getting solid data on how it’s working in their systems that can be used as a resource for other patients. “I felt like it was important, Coltyn said. “All the time I approach doctors and patients who don’t know that cannabis works, and the one thing they say is ‘there’s no research.’”

His mother added that that isn’t the whole truth, “One of the problems we have in the states is our ego, especially with these doctors who say ‘there’s no research,’ just because the research isn’t coming from the US, which has to go through the DEA and other enforcement agencies,” which, of course, aren’t big fans of approving studies with Schedule I drugs—an infuriatingly circular dilemma. But Coltyn’s up for the challenge.

“When the government doesn’t do something right, the people have to do it themselves,” he said. “I’d rather be illegally alive than legally dead.”

End-of-life hospital care in California could soon include cannabis

Meg Hartley
Published on October 3, 2019· Last updated July 28, 2020

Updated 10/24: On October 12th, Governor Newsome unexpectedly vetoed SB 305, citing conflicts between state and federal laws as well as potential loss of federal funding. He did so “begrudgingly,” calling the federal government’s position on cannabis “ludicrous.” 


The awkward legal-ish status of cannabis is something that affects many. And out of those, perhaps terminal patients are the most in need. When someone is painfully dying in a hospital, they are generally pumped full of drugs that often leave them barely conscious, or fully asleep.

Ryan had stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had reached the point where he needed professional care, but his only option to treat the intense pain was morphine, and even fentanyl—which is up to 100 times stronger than already-potent morphine⁠—leaving him barely conscious, or asleep. The last days of his life were being stolen, and he wanted all the coherent time he could gather to spend with his 9-year-old son.

So Ryan asked his father, Jim Bartell, to get him off the pharmaceuticals so he could function in some capacity during his last days. Jim located a hospital that would allow cannabis, and Ryan was promptly transferred to it. On the first day that Ryan was allowed cannabis, they had to spray a tincture under his tongue because he couldn’t even swallow.

But by the next morning, he was reportedly alert, talkative, and pain-free. Ryan was able to spend his last two and a half weeks of life chatting on the phone and taking visitors—connecting, laughing, and taking the precious time to say goodbye.

But Jim Bartell’s mission had just begun

Ryan Bartell passed away on April 21, 2018, but Jim wasn’t done with this issue. He drafted a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis in hospitals.

Ryan was able to spend his last two and a half weeks of life chatting on the phone and taking visitors—connecting, laughing, and taking the precious time to say goodbye.

In an interview with Leafly, he shared that as President of a San Diego firm that handles things like government PR, he’d been prepared for this mission—he’d already reviewed hundreds of government bills over the years.

After three long months of research and another three weeks of drafting, he took SB305 to Senator Ben Hueso at the end of 2018. Sen. Hueso agreed to sponsor it, and Jim and his staff continued to work together near daily until SB305 was submitted in February. Much of the pushback came from the California Hospital Association, who feared that they would lose federal funding as cannabis is still federally classified as a Schedule I drug.

But they worked through the opposition, drafting the bill so if the government were to change position and enforce federal prohibition against cannabis—then that hospital would be suspended from compliance.

And on September 11th, 2019, the California State Legislature unanimously approved their Senate Bill No. 305, which was aptly, and powerfully, titled “Ryan’s Law.” It’s now on its way to California’s pro-cannabis Governor Newsom, who is expected to sign it in the coming weeks. If all goes as predicted, it will come into effect on January 1st, 2020.

This means that starting next year, terminal medical cannabis patients with a prescription will be able to use cannabis in forms other than smoking/vaporization in hospital care. Cannabis will be procured by the patients, not the hospital. Hospitals will not be allowed to interfere with its administration, but will be allowed to help if needed.

Next steps for Ryan’s Law

Jim doesn’t plan to stop there. He says that this issue is affecting people like Ryan, and the people who love them, all over the country—so he’s doing something about it. First steps are to take on the geographically (and politically) close states of Oregon and Washington. And now they’ll only have to amend the bill with state-specific health codes instead of starting from scratch. Hopefully these states align quickly, and others as well.

Medical cannabis may be legal in many places, but patients in need of this medicine still face obstacles in terms of using it when and where they need it. While the chronically ill and those still in the fighting stages of diseases aren’t yet protected, this is an encouraging step in the right direction.

While some other states have on the books that they allow cannabis in hospitals, this will be the very first law that requires allowing it. Finally.

Even with such strict laws in place, a massive library of studies supporting the power of medical cannabis have amassed over the decades. It’s beyond time that medical cannabis became more accessible.