One issue many using medical marijuana for the first time can encounter is the difficult task of where to start. Once you've decided you want to try marijuana as a treatment option, and have secured the medical guidance from your GP or a specialist, having to then decide what strain or cannabinoid profile works for you can be overwhelming.
In an effort to help doctors and patients new to medical marijuana more efficiently and effectively determine if it is the right treatment approach for them, Saskatoon's CanniMed has recently introduced their unique 'Starter Program'. The CanniMed Starter Program arrives with a portable vaporizer, a log-book and 3 varieties of marijuana with varying cannabinoid profiles (the 2 cannabinoids regulated under the MMPR are the well-known THC and becoming-well-known CBD). The idea is to give the new or naive patient and doctor who may have little to no experience with medical marijuana a range of cannabinoid profiles (high THC, High CBD and a 1:1 ratio of the two), an intake method (vaporizer) and a way to document their experience to help them fine-tune their approach to medicating with marijuana over time (log-book).
The concept emerged from feedback CanniMed had been receiving from their patients and the medical community, according to Brent Zettl, the companies CEO and President. Many people who had been signing up with CanniMed had no experience with cannabis before, and had no idea where to start, nor did many of their doctors or specialists. Some patients were even eating the product raw, having no past experience with marijuana at all, medical or otherwise.
"When we spoke to some of the doctors, they told us that they wanted something with a broad enough cross section of the cannabinoid profiles so that they could quickly identify if patients are cannabinoid-receptive in the first place”, said Zettl in a recent interview with Lift. "So we wanted one option that has a 1:1 ratio, which is the 9-.9, we wanted one with a low THC and a high CBD which was the 4-.10, and we then wanted one with a higher THC and a lower CBD, so a 17-.1. Then, with the information recorded in the log book, the doctor along with the patient can figure out the most beneficial course of treatment moving forward.
"Sometimes it hits it on the head at 9-.9, but we're finding some of the patients need more CBD, so they want the 1:.13, and sometimes they find they want a higher level of THC, so they go to the 22:.1, like many of our PTSD sufferers," he continued. "So we wanted to give enough of a cross section that when the first time users are using it, they can look at their log book entries and answer the questions;: 'Is it effective in managing their symptoms, any of them, and if so, which ones are more effective than the others so they can help to drive the treatment?'."
According to CanniMed, more than 80% of their patients report using a vaporizer, so the choice of an Arizer Air was one of the better introductory and portable models to offer dose consistency as well as being, more discreet than smoking and more immediate than eating a baked product or oil. The log-book or diary helps patients and their doctor track usage, dosage, time and effects. Patients can use the three provided strains as a starting place, and then try adjusting their dosage with more THC or more CBD from one of the other two provided options until they find the combination that works best for them.
"What we're seeing with some people of the older, Baby-boomer demographic is their endocannabinoid system is actually decaying to a certain degree, and what we're really doing with cannabinoids is subsidizing our natural system." - Brent Zettl
This 'learning curve' for new medical marijuana users can be a daunting task, especially within the confines of the MMPR, where the ability to shop around is limited, product names can be confusing, and marketing rules prevent producers from discussing specific strains with specific and desired effects. Add into that the wait time for shipping and inability to even see the products beforehand, and you have a recipe for confusion and uncertainty.
For someone already familiar with how cannabis works for them, knowing you want to buy an Acapulco Gold, or a Cannatonic means you can skip the trial and error and buy what you're used to. For the person coming to medical cannabis for the first time, often as a last resort after pill fatigue and dead ends via more 'conventional' approaches, the choices can be daunting.
"What we would see from patients," continued Zettl, "is at first they would buy one product, just buy one and see if it works, and it was like a shot in the dark. So they had no idea if it was going to work, especially with people who this is their first time trying it. Somebody who has developed cancer and wants to manage their pain symptoms, somebody who has unfortunately developed MS, and they want to try it, those are the people who are saying 'What do I start with?'. It's not a magic bullet. We don't have one treatment for all things, it really is an individualized medicine and so you have to start with a broad cross section for experimentation. Our goal with the Starter Program is to help patients more quickly identify if medical cannabis therapy is an option for them.
"What we're seeing with some people of the older, Baby-boomer demographic is their endocannabinoid system is actually decaying to a certain degree, and what we're really doing with cannabinoids is subsidizing our natural system. Now, for a patient who is really trying to dial in, that's why it has to be so personalized, is it's becoming the true personalized medicine, and they have to really dial in what they need to manage their system, and for each and every person it has to be trial and error to get there, because of this ratio phenomenon between THC and CBD ... and how it reacts with each individual's cannabinoid system."
The CanniMed Starter Program is available to patients with valid medical documents. Information about this novel program is available at cannimed.ca.