I sit down with Dr. Codi Peterson, a cannabis pharmacist and educator. We touch on the intersection of cannabis, medicine, public health, and agriculture, as well as a few actionable pieces of advice for people using the plant for the first time (or the first time in a long time.)
Cannabis is medicine, and no one knows that better than Dr. Codi Peterson.
Peterson is a pediatric pharmacist in California, founder of the Pharmacist Cannabis Coalition of California, a master’s student for Cannabis Science at the University of Maryland, president of the Medical Cannabis Student Association, Chief Science Officer at the Cannigma, and social media educator.
In short, he’s pretty damn qualified to talk about cannabis and medicine.
Peterson spends most of his days talking about cannabis, thinking about cannabis, and teaching people about cannabis (myself included.) He’s working tirelessly to combat the plethora of misinformation about weed on the web and in the general public.
A cannabis lover himself, Peterson started using the plant in college but didn’t fully appreciate what it could bring to medicinal patients until he made brownies for an ailing family member. Their change in demeanor and ability to have a good day showed him the dignity cannabis can bring to people who are dying. But it also underscored to him the important of approaching cannabis as medicine, not some random party drug with no information or dosing. Cannabis can benefit nearly everyone when approached and used in the right way.
It all comes back to the endocannabinoid system, one of Peterson’s favorite topics. Appearing on every major organ in the body and within all mammals, the ECS has been called one of, if not the most, important system in the body. And yet most people are still unaware that they even have an endocannabinoid system, let alone it’s impact on overall health.
“This system is so much more important than regulating whether we’re high”
From external cannabinoids that come from weed to activities that mimic the effects of cannabis like yoga, Peterson wants to break the stigma behind cannabis by helping people understand how the plant can serve them, beyond getting high. In fact, his advice to first time users may surprise you with how low the dose is.
Talking to Dr. Codi, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some advice for first time users or people coming back to the plant for the first time in a long time. So in addition to our exploration of the cannabis industry and the future of medicinal cannabis, you’ll also find some insight from a pharmacist on using the plant to support your health goals, without necessarily getting high.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new cannabis user?
CP: Most people we recommend a tincture starting at a very low dose, a sub-field dose, usually less than a milligram of THC, of a type III product, depending on what you’re dealing with.
I would really just start with a super low dose of THC, because you’d be surprised how much that can do. There’s no need to jump into five or 10 milligrams. What are you going to get?
Most people are going to get high and that’s okay for some conditions. If you have very severe pain, you want to forget. But if you’re just trying to do it for even studying or for like mood boost, a smaller dose is actually far more effective. And then ratios we can talk about, but typically I start patients on type II or type III, never on a type I, except for rarely somebody who’s already accustomed to cannabis.
What’s a big misunderstanding about cannabis from the general public?
CP: Probably the indica/sativa divide. It works for some people and a little of that might be placebo, a little bit of that might be truth because the plant really did have these, these sort of differential effects depend on where it grew in the world. But the lines are so blurry now that that it’s spoken like bible and it really is nothing more than a weak guide post. Generally speaking, they’ve lost their luster,
What is one thing you wish people understood about cannabis pharmacology?
CP: That is so much more difficult than then they’re they think it is. And this system is so much more important than regulating whether we’re high.
The reason it’s so complex is because the endocannabinoid system is in every major system in our bodies. And it’s important that we figure out how to treat it, not just with cannabis, but how do we really feed this system that regulates health? Cannabis is a great tool, but it’s not everything we need. Is it meditation? Maybe. Is it yoga? Maybe. Is it all those things? Yes.
The cool thing about the endocannabinoid system is that each it’s not actually just in the brain, [it’s everywhere]. The CB1 one is the most abundant receptor in the brain and there’s a lot of anandamide in the brain but anandamide is not actually very common in your body.
There’s many endocannabinoids produced throughout every organ system in your whole body. It’s all interwoven; the endocannabinoid system is everywhere. It’s in every organ; it’s in your pancreas, so it can change your blood sugars. It’s in your belly, so it can cause you to be hungry. It’s also in your brain, it’s in your eyes.
Let’s talk about medical cannabis
Cannabis should be treated more like medicine, and we should have better standards as far as labeling, and patients’ rights counseling.
The budtender is a natural evolution of the way the industry came about, but we can do better for patients. I think a bud tenderer will serve their role in the adult use; there’s so many things that are a bud tenderer can do right in the service industry.
But when we’re talking about medical, about healthcare, we really need to have something that looks more like the pharmacist or a pharmacy technician role, because it only makes sense. When we’re talking about patients who are sick enough to be coming in to the hospital and taking six other meds, just got diagnosed, have never had cannabis before – it’s not fair to with someone with your training in that situation. They told you that they’re on six different medications, and is it okay if they start taking a one-to-one cannabis at bedtime and throughout the day, can you answer that question?
It’s a whole different language that we’re speaking medicine and the truth is that’s a reason that you go to a doctor originally. Because a doctor assesses you for your medical needs and then he sends you to a pharmacist because the doctors no longer specialize in all the things that need to be medicine.
Certainly, some doctors are better than others. Some are extremely good at medicine, but the vast majority of general practitioners and the vast majority of even specialists are good at being doctors, not at being pharmacists. Physicians get one to maybe two years, or one class in pharmacology. But I get four years of pharmacology and pharmacists who aren’t me go on into traditional training called a residency, which might sound like something you’ve heard of in, in the physician world. So it’s really all connected.
What’s one thing that needs to end in the industry?
CP: Shaming of CHS (cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome) patients. I don’t think that the cannabis industry to own CHS, but it does have to own the addictive potential and this potential of cannabis. And I don’t think patients should be shamed. Nobody fakes a cyclic vomiting disorder. That is just easy fruit for me. It’s close to near to dear to my heart because I work in a hospital and I see these patients occasionally not all the time, but occasionally more and more often.
I do want more type II flower on the market. I mean, you can take a type III and type I, mix it together, but it sure would be nice to just have it and know what it is as far as like ratio blend. My grinder’s not homogenized.
What’s something you’re excited about?
CP: I love to see this New York thing coming online. I think it’s really interesting. I think New York shows a lot of promise in what they’ve done with the recreational market and what Steve D’Angelo on our [The Cannabis Enigma] podcast mentioned, really trying to integrate legacy growers and find a way to include them which is what we need. We need to integrate those markets more because if you look at the the illicit market or the gray market, black market, whatever you want to call it, the legacy market destroying the legal market. And that’s why the legal market is so defensive. And frankly, it’s also why the illegal market is so profitable.
Legacy growers see the corporate greed that’s going on and, they’re like I can’t enter this industry. And even if I do it get squashed. So they’re just going to go back to what they do. We need to find a more holistic approach to consider all avenues and that goes with exactly what I described, federal deregulation, a creation of medical divisions around cannabis in the entirely legal adult-use market and home grow.
What’s something you don’t like about the industry?
CP: The war on drugs was a real problem. When the marijuana tax law of 1937 was passed, it was as sort of a guise, right? It was said you had to get a stamp to get to grow cannabis but you could no longer get that stamp, even if you went to DC, therefore it was illegal to have and grow cannabis.
The reason they did this was because there was a growing concern of African American men consuming cannabis in public and convincing white women to do it. Now that’s a bit of abbreviated, it’s not just that. It was a lot of Asian Americans and people from all over and it was lumped in with cocaine and heroin or opiates. So somehow cannabis, which was always medicine and was always part of our Pharmacopia was grabbed as a way to lump more people of color together. Then you could now control, segregate and put in prison eventually.
What does social equity mean to you?
CP: We gotta break down barriers of entry. We can’t be putting up barriers of entry that are unattainable by folks that come from economically repressed areas, regardless of what color they are.
But when you look at those areas, there’s just a higher number of Black and Brown Americans. So we have to find a way to not only break down those barriers, but then build these communities back up around these businesses and to find a way to employ communities that have been for too long, put in jail for this plant. Let’s at least turn it around and give them the jobs cultivating what they were doing anyway, before they went to jail and, and they can develop a love for this plant. And then let’s do it go a step further.
Let’s start talking about health equity when it comes to social equity. Part of what happened when we took this plant away from people was a loss in a very valuable medicine. And again with all of the stress, oppression, and everything going on, cannabis could have been such a useful tool to Black and Brown Americans. But unfortunately they were persecuted and stigmatized for it rather than able to use it to their benefits.
And then, building local jobs, local economies of scale, and this means an entire agricultural revolution. If you really want me to be honest, look we’re faced with the biggest crisis climate-wise in the history of the planet earth aside from maybe when a giant meteor slammed into it and killed almost everything on earth. So other than that, like we gotta figure out what we can do.
And one of the easiest things we can do is start recycling food waste, composting, growing our own vegetables again locally and not shipping them across the country. You want to talk about health? You want to talk about diversity of your weed? What about the diversity of our food? We grow, we eat monocultures. It’s the same tomato, the same spinach. There’s no weird diversity. There’s no uniqueness to it. And that’s why when you go to like an Asian market or even a Mexican market, you’re like, Ooh, what the hell is this? You see all these different unique colors or different shapes of foods. This is all because of what commercialization has done with our, with our food industrial complex that is really harming America. And we need to get back down to our roots quite literally, and start growing our own food locally and supporting our own communities.
What do you see the future of the industry as?
CP: I don’t have a crystal ball. There’s a lot of things that are going to happen, but one we’re going to learn a lot more, a lot quicker and things are going to change. So get ready for of that.
Whoever’s in the industry right now and thinks they know a lot, guess what you don’t, things are going to change. Certainly plant growing plants isn’t going to change much but technology and automation and all that. And I’m sorry to tell you, this is the price of your cannabis is gonna go way down. Don’t get used to get getting a bunch of money.
Adults are gonna leave alcohol and move to cannabis. Alcohol knows this, so they’re getting into cannabis. So you’re gonna see more of that. You’re gonna see more big companies getting in. They’re gonna start to have CBD toothpaste. Maybe, maybe not but you’re gonna have all this stuff that’s gonna happen eventually, but don’t expect it’s too soon.
And there’s a lot of the government doesn’t really work with the way people think, right, 91 of Americans wanna legalize cannabis, but I’m telling you right now, it might not happen in the next two years. It might not happen in the next six years. We need to be active. We need to call our senators. We need to call our congressmen.
What’s your favorite way to consume cannabis?
CP: I’ve always been a good old fashion bowl guy ever since I was in college when I discovered cannabis. Just plain jane, doesn’t even have to be fancy. Doesn’t have to be a bong or anything, I think a bong is a little too aggressive for me.
What’s your favorite fun fact about cannabis?
CP: I love that cannabis is dioecious and so everyone who’s ever consumed cannabis in a joint or in a bong or anything has consumed female cannabis. Very few people have ever smoked a male cannabis plant.