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  • By Johanna Salinas

Hands-on advice for growing medical pot

Healthcare is a billion-dollar industry in America, with private insurance companies and private hospitals ready to prescribe highly addictive medicines like opioids to desperate patients with very bad consequences, such as what is currently described as an addiction epidemic. Strangely, in America, marijuana/cannabis sativa, is viewed as destructive compared to legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol which have well known downsides.

Marijuana’s got a public relations problem, being perceived as a gateway drug, though various forms of cannabis, such as CBD elixir, don’t get people high or stoned. On Guam, while it’s now legal for patients to use cannabis, the drug still holds a stigma in the community.

Because it has been difficult for ill patients to have access to cannabis, Gov. Eddie Calvo recently signed a bill by Sen. Louise Muna allowing patients and their caretakers to cultivate cannabis.

To better inform locals on the laws and the science of cannabis, Grassroots Guam hosted the Cultivating Change Workshop. Andrea Pellacani, who helped coordinate the event, believes in the health benefits of cannabis use. “If you have a family member with cancer or epilepsy or autism or suffering drug addiction, this can assist them,” said Pellacani, managing partner at Grassroots Guam. “We’ve been doing medical cannabis advocacy for four years now. It started as something we were just interested in, but as we learned the history of why cannabis is illegal, it was so intriguing. Grassroots is about having access to the medicine and giving people the choice to this alternative.”

Representatives from the Department of Public Health and Social Services assisted during the workshop by providing paperwork and packets for patients and businesses. “What we wanted to do was advance the conversation one more step. This is the first time Public Health participated with us,” Pellacani said. “We had the Guam Medical Association stop by. Two gubernatorial candidates showed up and many senatorial candidates. The interest’s there. The message we want to give the community’s that there’s help and there are resources available.”

Since cannabis use is still a new alternative medicine, Pellacani knows that Grassroots has a long way to go to make a great impact. “We want to fix our program if people see any faults in our policies,” she said. “If we need people on Guam trained on how to regulate cannabis, there are resources available.”

Nic Easly, CEO and founder of 3C, the world’s leading strategic cannabis consulting firm; Steph Sherer, founder of Americans for Safe Access, and Andrea Pellacani, managing partner at Grassroots Guam, speak at Cultivating Change, A Cannabis Workshop held Nov. 3 at Hyatt Regency Guam. Photo by Johanna Salinas

The first session was focused on regulatory hurdles and industry or business aspects of medical pot. The second session talked about home cultivation which featured their keynote speaker, Nic Easly, CEO and founder of 3C, the world’s leading strategic cannabis consulting firm. As a father, Easly is aware of how cannabis can change the dynamics of a family. “If you have kids, you don’t want to be ashamed of your medicine, but you don’t want them exposed to liability,” Easly said. “Don’t be scared to medicate in front of them, but know you’re representing this plant and its industry and the long-term perception of it. For example, one of my staff’s kids said at school that their mom sells weed and then local social services questioned them. Be honest with your kids. If you’re going to do it in certain rooms, keep those rooms locked. Keep it safe and locked up. One thing I try to ban is anything that looks like it can be a child’s candy. If you have cannabis gummies, your child might accidentally try some and next thing you know they’ll be listening to Pink Floyd and freaking out.”

With over 15 years of experience handling cannabis, Easly knows how tough harvesting can be. “I’ve seen every dirty thing happen with home cultivation. One user was too scared to call an electrician to wire the lights, so they plug their lights into a dryer plug,” said Easly.

As a biologist, Easly is aware of other factors affecting the quality of cannabis. “Water quality’s something you can’t mess with,” he said. “The

problem with tap water in America is that it has bleach and it can kill probiotics.” It takes a while to grow. Easly believes six great plants can give more medicine than 100 tiny plants. Easly suggests cutting low branches, so the plant can focus its energy on its higher branches.

More advice: “Be careful of the products people try to sell you,” Easly advised. “The book West Coast Masters by Dru West is a good resource, but you should know that other publications are really aimed at selling products. The Bible by Jorge Cervantes was our literal bible as an industry, but that stuff’s so antiquated it’s kind of wrong. Even home-growers try to sell you products you don’t need, like LED lights or busters.”

Easly recommends growers be cautious of the different information on harvesting cannabis. “None of those shortcut things work for cannabis. It’s mostly junk, like giving a plant 90 percent potassium or turning off the lights for three weeks. Keeping plants in the dark is called stress compound—it could be a good thing or a bad thing. Try to keep things as standard as possible. Young plants need the highest humidity. If you have too a dense a plant and it grows fast, it can have mildew or mold.”

Even thick, blossoming buds of cannabis need great time and care to happen. “All those beautiful buds you’ve seen, someone trimmed them,” Easly stated. “Cannabis can be trimmed fresh or dry. My favorite way to trim for both homegrown and commercial, is to cut off one of the top buds by hand. Turn it four times the first day, two times the second day, and once after that. If you trim it wrong or dry it too fast it’ll be harsh. If you dry it too slowly, it’ll mold. On Guam it can dry faster.”

Because patients and their caretakers are the ones growing the medicine, Easly reminds them to be responsible, but enjoy their gardening. Easly said, “Keep up with your records and keep good data. There’s something therapeutic about harvesting plants—about watching something outside of yourself grow.”


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