I am not a lawyer so this is simply my informed opinion.

The laws about cannabis in the United States and in California are complicated. On the federal level, the ‘law’ is simple. Cannabis is a schedule 1 narcotic which means that it has absolutely no medicinal value and that it is extremely addictive. Both of these statements are ‘patently’ false. It is fascinating that the U.S. patent office (an official government agency) has issued several patents for the medicinal benefits associated with various cannabinoids in treating pain and neurological disorders. As for addiction, as a long time user of cannabis for glaucoma and a drinker of coffee beverages, coffee is much more difficult to do without on any given day.

In the state of California the voters first asserted the medical benefits of cannabis and a “qualified patient’s” right to access cannabis with the passage of proposition 215 in 1996. This created a huge grey area in how law enforcement interpreted this ‘right’. It also allowed local government to regulate where or even if cannabis could be cultivated within their jurisdictions. In 2004 senate bill 420 clarified that patients and caregivers could form collectives in order to be able to provide cannabis to their qualified patients.

All of California law supporting cannabis has been very clear that all cannabis must be not for profit and is strongly against any money changing hands. However, in 2016, the governor signed into law three different bills that together are known today as the “Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act” (MCRSA). This is the first attempt to create a legal, regulated business environment for the multi billion dollar ‘grey area’ ‘not-for-profit’ ‘medicinal’ cannabis industry that is happening already in California. Also in 2016, the voters passed proposition 64, known as the ‘ Adult Use of Marijuana Act’ (AUMA) which legalizes adult use and possession of small quantities of cannabis. Both MCRSA and AUMA are very complex and it will take some time for state regulators to sort out how these laws will play out in the real world. Both of them do allow for profit work with cannabis.

On the local level we here in Nevada County, California have had a very spirited discussion over the last few years about how our local jurisdictions will relate to these new laws. As it stands here locally now, (January of 2017) no cannabis business is legally allowed. As a result of this development we here at the House of Harlequin have focused on education and activism. We hope for a well regulated small scale artisanal medical cannabis industry that allows for the full spectrum of cannabis in county. This would include cultivation, processing, manufacturing, and dispensing to end users.

I must point out again, these are just my opinions. I am not a lawyer, please educate yourself on the law that applies to your jurisdiction.

There are some 480 compounds that have been identified or isolated in the cannabis plant. Some of the molecules are unique to the cannabis plant and they are known as cannabinoids. THC and CBD are well known, but there are many cannabinoids. There is an ongoing search for plants that express various cannabinoid ratios. Some plants may be desirable to work with because they are productive and finish flowering in a timely fashion, and because of the results they show in qualified patients seeking relief from a variety of conditions.

Terpenes are the plant’s attempt to defend themselves, and also to draw our attention. Most of the smells and flavors that we like are terpenes. Terpenes modulate the effect of the cannabinoids present in the plant material. The “entourage effect” is important in medicine making as there does seem to be a clear correlation between the terpenes presented in the plants and determining whether a particular strain or cannabis-product is going to be helpful for a condition like epilepsy.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of at least 80 unique compounds secreted by the cannabis flowers. CBD is a homeostatic regulator, which means it allows the body to adjust its physiological systems, helping the body achieve the balance we call health. It’s an adaptogen and it has pain relieving properties. Unfortunately, over the years, this most medicinal property of the cannabis plant has been bred out in favor of other cannabinoids especially THC. THC seems to be helpful for pain relief at the moment, whereas CBD helps the body deal with the source of the pain. For most people’s conditions, if they can find some of both, this is ideal.

A sister molecule of CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, was the first isolated compound in the cannabis plant and the one responsible for the psychoactive effects when consumed. It’s easy to see THC as a terpene of sorts, because it is how humans discovered the healing aspect of cannabis plants. At some point, early on, there was something in this plant that felt good to people, relaxed them and made them laugh. Without THC we would not know about the endocannabinoid system. It’s an essential part of the healing aspect of the plant for patients with autism and some types of epilepsy to experience relief. It is just as medicinal as CBD.

It is the relationship and the interaction of all the compounds, or cannabinoids and terpenes, in the plant when they enter the human body. It can be describe as teamwork, or the collaboration that takes place in order for the different compounds to reach the areas of the body where they are most needed.

No, I’m a patient (suffering from glaucoma) with a deep interest in healing plants.

What we call ‘medical’ or medicinal’ cannabis are the genetic versions of cannabis that have been cultivated because they give us the benefits of euphoria or healing. For many generations of human beings these plants were used in these ways. We also found versions of the same plants that were useful for their fibers. We made fabric for cloth and sails, paper, and cord. The original copies of America’s Declaration of Independence are written on hemp paper.

One way to see the difference between hemp and the cannabis plants we think of as medicinal is to recognize that hemp was bred and cultivated for extremely long durable fibers, whereas medicinal cannabis has been bred and cultivated for its effects (cannabinoids) and its smells (terpenes). Hemp has some cannabinoids and terpenes but in small quantities. Medicinal cannabis has them in abundance.

The Prohibitionist point of view defines ‘hemp’ as cannabis with a THC content below a certain threshold percentage, typically less than 0.35 or 0.5. This is what some states have defined as medical or medicinal cannabis. In fact, for some conditions that respond to treatment with cannabis, THC is an essential part of the entourage effect. Autism, epilepsy and some cancers are conditions where our patients group has benefited from cannabis that had CBD and THC.

Harlequin is available at numerous medical cannabis dispensaries throughout California.

Testing the soil is as important as testing the live plants and the end product. Soil testing is a fairly inexpensive proposition. Educate yourself on what the soil needs in order for the plants to be healthy. Soil testing can be provided by some agricultural extension programs and private laboratories.

Testing actual plants becomes essential if you don’t have utter confidence that the cuttings you have are what they are supposed to be. Also, before you offer your plants as medicine, be certain that it is free of mold, free of pesticides, and tested for bacteria. Testing comes into its own when you are trying to find a specific ratio of terpenes and cannabinoids that are helpful to a patient with a particular condition. Testing will be required under MCRSA.

Cuttings, or clones are exact copies of the mother plant. They are helpful when you want a whole bunch of one specific thing. The disadvantage is they have a wound at their base. They tend not to be as vital as seedlings. The beauty of seeds is that is how you find new things. With seeds you can develop a line of plants or strains that is representative of your particular needs. The disadvantages are you have to know how to tell the difference between a boy and a girl and use testing as a tool to tell you what genetic makeup of the plant is manifesting. I view seeds as the research line and clones as the production line.

I spend most of my time on the farm, but will be available to speak at various educational events. If you send me an email, we may not be able to respond right away, but stay tuned. You may get an answer back or receive information about upcoming events.