Finding a Better Way: Man changes life for better with marijuana and alternative therapy

SNR_Eddie Henderson_A Therapeutic Alt_sound therapy_AS_01Photo by Anne Stokes
by Mike Blount
On Valentine’s Day in 1961, 9-year-old Eddie Henderson’s life was changed forever when he was struck by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The hit-and-run accident shattered his right femur and caused him to be in and out of the hospital for treatment for four years. Though he eventually recovered from the accident, he suffered from debilitating pain for most of his life.
“When I turned 14, I was still in a wheelchair and I was told by doctors I would never walk again,” Henderson says. “My father passed away that same year, and I knew I had to get out of the chair and teach myself to walk again. I did so, but walking caused me a great deal of pain. I’ve lived with that pain my whole life.”
In 1969, Henderson was enrolled in his first year of college when he was invited to a friend’s birthday party. It was there that an acquaintance told him to try marijuana for dealing with his pain. Henderson says it saved his life.
“Doctors have tried to manage my pain with a number of different pharmaceuticals in my life,” Henderson says. “But they come with a number of side effects. Over time, you have to take more of them to continue being effective. You can become addicted. You can easily go too far. Marijuana does a better job of allowing me to manage my pain without those other risks.”
Henderson continued to self-medicate with marijuana for years, even though its use was not viewed positively by the medical community or society. But to Henderson, it was the most effective pain management tool he had at his disposal. It would become even more crucial to him after a second accident.
On Christmas Day 2012, Henderson was crossing a street in Berkeley, Calif. when he was struck again — this time by a taxi. The driver sped away, leaving Henderson behind.
With no health insurance, Henderson was saddled with medical bills. He lost his job and became homeless before ending up in Sacramento in search of help. On a chance walk down a street, he passed by A Therapeutic Alternative and was drawn to the dispensary. It was another life-changing moment for him.
“The people there are involved in their own healing … and they are there to help people in an inspiring way,” Henderson says. “They’re using ancient wisdom and medicine that I’ve never been exposed to that are absolutely wonderful, and they’ve introduced me to new things to help me manage my pain — things like yoga. With alternative therapy combined with marijuana, my pain management is as good as it’s ever been in my life.”

Fifty Shades of Green: Medical marijuana growers hopeful for industry regulation

Photo by Laura Anthony

Executive Director of the Emerald Growers Association Hezekiah Walker rallies with cannabis farmers in front of the State Capitol April 15
by Mike BlountIMG_0329

Since the passage of the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, the medical marijuana industry in California has largely been unregulated by the state, leaving many questions about public safety and environmental concerns unanswered. With a public vote on the legalization of recreational use of marijuana looming in 2016, state lawmakers and cannabis growers have begun working together to create statewide legislation by the end of the year.
In the absence of state regulation, many local governments have set guidelines for marijuana cultivation, or, in some cases, growers have made their own. But these solutions are far from uniform across the state, according to Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the Emerald Growers Association. The group has produced multiple guides on sustainability and environmental responsibility for growers, but adoption of these policies is slow and voluntary.
Allen says new regulations would legitimize the medical marijuana industry, setting it apart from the illegal growing operations, which are at a competitive advantage.
California currently has a multimillion dollar black-market cannabis industry, and illegal growing has caused environmental concerns. As part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s emergency drought package passed in March, $2 million was set aside to fight illegal water diversion for illegal marijuana growing operations.
In response to these concerns, Allen and his 750-member group have hired lobbyists to work with politicians at the State Capitol to make sure their interests are represented as the groundwork for new regulations is being laid.
Because medical marijuana is not a regulated industry, growers also do not have access to state agricultural programs and incentives — something Allen would also like to see changed. Medical marijuana farmers are also unable to obtain business licenses, which would allow them to have business bank accounts and apply for bank loans.
Currently, two bills — SB643 and AB34 — are focusing on setting up regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry.
“Our fundamental goal is to have regulation that balances with existing legislation and increases our access to programs and incentives,” Allen says. “Working with both of the authors of these bills, we are hopeful about what they might do. They have resisted all of the stigma and focused on the fact that it’s a public policy question. We’re really excited about this fresh, new perspective.”
While specific details for either bill have yet to be announced, Allen is hopeful that one will pass this year ahead of a 2016 public vote on recreational use.
“Of course, if we’re going to do that in 2016, it would be so much better to have some of these questions already answered ahead of time,” Allen says. “But I believe this stands on its own merits as a public policy question. Our farmers are ready to pay taxes and work with state agencies. We just want to make sure the program is balanced and fair.”

How’d We Get Here? The history of marijuana prohibition

by Evan Tuchinsky

While patients in California have access, cannabis remains a prohibited substance for medical use in 18 states and for recreational use in all but four. How did this ban bias begin? Here is a timeline showing the evolution.
1906: Three centuries after hemp production was not only encouraged, but legally mandated in parts of what was to become the United States of America, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, requiring that any over-the-counter remedy maker list its cannabis content on the label.
1930: The U.S. government established the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).
1932: With marijuana — linked by anti-drug campaigners to Mexican immigrants during the Great Depression — banned in 29 states, the FBN adopted the Uniform State Narcotic Act to put the onus for action on state governments.
1936: The film “Reefer Madness” by French director Louis Gasner got released, in the same year that the Motion Picture Association of America prohibited its member studios from depicting narcotics use in movies.
1937: Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, limiting possession to those who pay an excise tax and use it for specific medical and industrial purposes.
1952 & ’56: The Boggs Act and Narcotics Control Act set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses. (A first conviction for possessing marijuana carried a minimum sentence of two to 10 years’ incarceration and a fine up to $20,000.) Most of these minimums got repealed in 1970, in conjunction with the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act.
1973: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) formed, merging two agencies: the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE).
1986: Amid the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act that, with the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, increased federal penalties for possessing and dealing marijuana. A subsequent amendment set the “three strikes” sentences (life for repeat offenders and death for “drug kingpins.”)
1989: President George H.W. Bush proclaims a new “War on Drugs.”
Source: PBS “Frontline”

Collective Giving helps Alpha K-9 give a second chance to veterans (and dogs, too

_MG_0296by Matt Jocks

Veteran Dave Singh and his dog Nala, a Belgian Malinois, have been inseperable since they were matched up thanks to Sacramento nonprofit Alpha K-9.  Whether it’s figuring out how to sit, heel or roll over, dogs often learn from their masters. Sometimes, though, it works the other way around.
When Army veteran Dave Singh was asked what Nala, his Belgian Malinois, has done for him, his response was simple:
“Basically, she taught me how to love again.”
He adopted the dog through Alpha K-9, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that pairs dogs with veterans. Many of these veterans are struggling with the transition back to civilian life and are able to adopt the dogs free of charge with the help of corporate sponsorship.
“The majority of the dogs in the program are rescue dogs,” said Jackie Pfister, Director of Operations for Alpha K-9. “So they both benefit from this. It’s a beautiful process.”
The dogs are not service dogs as most people know them. But they are more than simply companions.
“These dogs are able to pick up on changes in a person’s body chemistry,” Pfister says. “They’re able to identify stress and even distinguish between good and bad stress. They are able to comfort the veteran and get their minds off situations that can be negative.”
Another benefit is the reassurance the dogs can give veterans in unfamiliar situations.
“It’s like a safety net,” Pfister says. “The dogs pick up on so many things. In a new situation, the owner can feel that, if the dog is not bothered by it, there’s no reason why they should be.”
Alpha K-9 is the beneficiary for Collective Giving, a collaboration of Sacramento-area medical marijuana dispensaries to benefit local charities. Collective Giving founder Kelsi White chose Alpha K-9 because medical marijuana dispensaries are very supportive of the veteran community.
“Many veterans are able to find relief from so many problems — from PTSD to cancer — through medical marijuana, so the dispensaries have a lot of veterans coming through their doors,” she says. “I was impressed with the unique service Alpha K-9 provides for veterans and that it’s a local charity doing good in our community.”
Singh, who lives in Sacramento, was a volunteer for Alpha K-9 before realizing how much he could benefit from it. That’s when he and Nala became a team.
“She didn’t like me much at first,” he said. “Now, we’re inseparable.”
How has he benefited?
“Well, she has pretty much eliminated my road rage,” he said. “When my anxiety level gets up high, she picks up on that. Based on her reactions, I realize I have to check myself and evaluate my emotions. Sometimes, she senses I’m feeling something I’m not even really aware of.”
Pfister says she’s seen Singh and so many other veterans improve after being paired with canine companions.
“We have clients come in and we ask how they’re doing, and it’s all really positive,” she says. “They’re able to work through the day and not have to leave because of stress. It just helps them get through the day.”

Could Sacramento Be a ‘Seed-to-sale’ City?

iStock_000031838362_LargeVertical integration would provide safer, consistent access to cannabis patients.

by Michelle Carl

The Sacramento Coalition of Collectives is asking the Sacramento City Council to consider allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to monitor all growth, harvest and processing of their medicine in a “seed to sale” model.

Today’s consumers know if their strawberries were grown in Mexico, if their cereal has non-GMO wheat and if the salmon on their plate was caught in the frigid waters off the coast of Alaska.
But medical marijuana patients visiting dispensaries in Sacramento have very little knowledge about the origins of the cannabis they’re consuming.

“That finished product is basically a story of its entire life cycle, and we don’t always know the details of that story,” says Corey Travis, a representative of the Sacramento Coalition of Collectives.

That’s because the marijuana in dispensaries comes from third-party vendors, medical marijuana patients who sell their crop. The buds have to speak for themselves. Many times it’s unknown what plant they came from, what nutrients it was given, or what pesticides (if any) were used.
Testing can answer some questions, such as the cannabinoid profile, but Travis says testing won’t find every foreign contaminant.  The Sacramento Coalition of Collectives is asking the Sacramento City Council to consider allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to monitor all growth, harvest and processing of their medicine in a “seed to sale” model.
A different option would be for collectives to grow it themselves and monitor all aspects of growth, harvest, processing and delivery of medical marijuana — from seed to sale.
“What that means to the patient is more affordable access to medicine, it means a more reliable quality process, and it means the availability of strains will be more consistent,” he says.
The expense to acquire cannabis from patient providers is far more than the cost to actually produce it, Travis says. Patient-providers name their own price to cover costs. Collectives then have to mark up that cannabis again, to cover their own costs.
Collectives are also limited by what strains growers choose to grow.  “Once a patient finds something that works really well for them, we want to be able to continually provide that particular product — it’s their medicine, they need it on a regular basis,” Travis explains. “And when we’re prevented from vertically integrating our products and have to go to outside sources for those meds, we have no control over being able to regularly keep that product in stock.”
Travis says this vertically integrated system is already in place in almost every medical marijuana market, including Nevada.
The Sacramento Coalition of Collectives is working with city officials right now and asking the Sacramento City Council to consider a seed-to-sale model for the benefit of dispensaries and patients, who could finally get the chance to see where their medicine comes from.
“We would love to be able to take patients to our facilities and show them … where this product is coming from and how it’s grown and cared for,” Travis says.

Funds Support Dogs for Veterans

-by Matt Jocks

IMG_8336 (1)

$4,500 raised in latest Collective Giving campaign
Ask Kevin Cameron, CEO and Founder of Alpha K-9, how much the Collective Giving fundraising drive did for his organization and you will get a large number and a much smaller number. Collective Giving is a program where dispensaries, doctors, and additional cannabis entities join forces to support local non-profits.


“This will help save the lives of three veterans.”
Kevin Cameron
CEO and Founder, Alpha K-9

It’s the smaller one that means the most to Cameron.
“This will help save the lives of three veterans,” Cameron says.
The larger number is $4,500, the amount raised for Alpha K-9, an organization that trains and supplies companion dogs for veterans who may be suffering from the mental and emotional after-effects of their service. For Cameron, that translates into fully training one dog, and the training of two house pets.
Dogs in the program are trained to smell the stress pheromones in humans and to stay extra close to their human partners when the stress level rises.
Cameron said it takes about two months to fully train a dog and Alpha K-9 puts out about 200 dogs a year. In addition to the money raised by Collective Giving, the exposure brought another business into the sponsorship fold.

Getting the word out is a big part of Alpha K-9’s mission, trying to overcome the barriers that keep veterans from getting help.
“In some cases, it’s pride,” Cameron says. “Some see it as weakness to seek help. They just don’t understand the benefits. But the more they hear about it, the more likely they are to check it out.”
Dave Singh is a veteran who volunteers for the program and also benefits from it.
“I can tell you there have been a few fights avoided because of Nala,” Singh says. “And a lot of anxiety alleviated.”
Cameron points out that post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the leading causes of suicides among veterans.  He adds that there have been no suicides reported among the veterans who have participated in Alpha K-9.
“It gives them a reason to get up in the morning, if they might not have that,” Cameron says. “It gives them a reason to be happy. To find joy in something.”

Under the Positive Influence

Donations from the Collective Giving winter drive benefited the people who receive help at Sacramento Loaves & Fishes. Hasina Holleman and her daughter Kaliyah, 4, say the donations of knit hats, mittens and socks are essential for staying warm this winter.  Photo by Anne Stokes

Donations from the Collective Giving winter drive benefited the people who receive help at Sacramento Loaves & Fishes. Hasina Holleman and her daughter Kaliyah, 4, say the donations of knit hats, mittens and socks are essential for staying warm this winter.
Photo by Anne Stokes

By Brittany Wesely
When Kelsi White began working with Sacramento medical marijuana dispensaries to run advertisements in News & Review, she knew that the collectives play a valuable role in the community. After five years of working with the dispensaries, she realized that although the cooperatives made their own individual charitable efforts, perhaps greater good could be done by working together.
White formed Collective Giving, a combined effort by dispensaries and their patients to improve the community through donations to charitable organizations. In winter 2013, Collective Giving introduced its first donation drive, collecting nearly 4,000 pounds of canned goods for the River City Food Bank. Collective Giving later launched a second drive in the summer of 2014 to gather $4,000 in cash donations for WeCARE! Community-Based Cancer Peer Navigator Program, an effort of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center to provide support for newly diagnosed patients by trained survivors.
This winter, Collective Giving kicked off its third campaign to collect donations of hats, mittens and socks for Sacramento Loaves & Fishes to give back to the area’s most vulnerable population, the homeless.
Joan Burke, director of advocacy at Loaves & Fishes, says donations of knit garments makes a big difference for the people who take advantage of the services provided at the organization.
“Hats and gloves that are donated really make a difference in a person’s life,” Burke says. “The socks are especially important because most of our guests go everywhere on foot — walking many miles to get a meal or go to a doctor’s office.”
Hasina Holleman knows firsthand what this is like. For her, being a single mother is difficult. But being a homeless, single mother is harder. Holleman and her three daughters utilize many of the services at Loaves & Fishes and she says the donations to the organization allow her family to stay warm this winter.
“We get help with diapers, clothes and socks. My daughter, Kaliyah, goes to the Mustard Seed School. They give her clothes, jackets and rain boots,” Holleman says. “[The donations] will really help us because we never know how the season is going to turn out.”
The efforts of Collective Giving over the last two years have raised awareness, funds and tangible donations for members of the community who find themselves facing overwhelming challenges and have helped them get through difficult times. For White, this is the greatest success of the program.
“It’s amazing to see the dispensaries and their patients work together to collect donations for local charities through the Collective Giving program,” White says. “I’m continually inspired by their efforts and dedication to public outreach and education.”

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

At Florin Wellness Center patients are like family to the staff. Manager Timothy Stone says the front room where they walk in is often compared to the set of the TV show “Cheers.”

Many of them come in daily and everyone knows their name,” Stone says. “I can’t tell you how many patients I look forward to seeing every day.”

Those relationships are the reason Stone says he is excited about moving to a new location in October, where the dispensary will have more space to help more patients with services that go beyond supplying medical marijuana.

As a nonprofit, Florin Wellness Center offers additional services free of charge for their patients, including massage sessions, chiropractic adjustments and Pilates, yoga and medicinal marijuana education classes. But when Florin Wellness Center relocates, Stone says they’ll be able to offer even more services.

We are not just a place that takes your money and sends you on your way,” Stone says. “We want to give back to our patients, and we want to do things that we think will actually benefit them — and that they will appreciate.”

Those benefits include having an attorney provide free legal advice on the guidelines and regulations for growing your own medicinal marijuana plants. Because those rules are continuously changing, Stone says many patients don’t know what is and isn’t legal.

Florin Wellness Center will also offer free cooking classes for patients who choose to ingest their cannabis instead of smoking it. While the dispensary does offer a variety of edibles, Stone says the classes will be geared toward patients who have dietary restrictions or needs. There will also be cannabis culture classes taught for people who are completely unfamiliar with the medicine.

For many of our patients, this is a last resort for them,” Stone says. “Maybe they felt like cannabis was too taboo before, but they didn’t know what else to do. We show them the different ways to ingest and use cannabis. We teach them about different equipment and how to use it.”

The dispensary also operates a compassion program, which provides medicinal cannabis for free to patients who are experiencing a financial hardship or are severely ill. Currently, Florin Wellness Center has about 60 patients in the program, but Stone says they plan to let more participate in the future.

We develop personal relationships with a lot of our patients and learn about their backgrounds and situations,” Stone says. “Depending on their needs, we can meet with them, and if they have some substantial problem keeping them from getting their medication, we can help them out. Someone who suffers from severe pain, but is on a fixed income would be someone who would qualify. We review their situation every six months.”

Once the new location officially open, Stone says he’s hoping for a large turnout for their free services. So far, the initial response has been really positive.

When we had our soft opening, we had four pages of sign-up sheets filled out for people who were interested in these services,” Stone says. “We’re looking forward to accommodating that demand when we open. It all goes back to helping our patients. We really care about them.”


Guiding Patients Through Cancer

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