During this time of enforced boredom laced with extraordinary stress, as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic, many more people in the Capital Region are turning to cannabis for relief of both, according to news reports.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 executive order, which shuttered retail businesses in all but “essential” industries, did not affect cannabis dispensaries. Robert Baca, head of the Sacramento Cannabis Industry Association, says that is likely because a significant percentage of cannabis-users rely on it “legitimately” as medicine.
“It’s impossible to separate medical users from recreational users,” Baca says, pointing out that cannabis is used to treat maladies from chemotherapy-related disorders to stress.
Kim Cargile, CEO of Sacramento’s A Therapeutic Alternative, says her clients have switched up some of the products they use and the way they use them. “I’ve found from talking to our members over the last few weeks that they’re using cannabis more often,” Cargile says, “but using lower doses to reduce their anxiety and their stress.”
Cargile, who began in the industry 10 years ago as a medical marijuana activist and entrepreneur, says she learned long ago that cannabis can help relieve anxiety. Also important, she says, it can spark creativity. “It can make the time that people are stuck at home more enjoyable,” she says. “I’ve been hearing stories about people doing art projects, home improvements or gardening.”
While many people are doing what they can to stay sane amid the threat and uncertainty of the pandemic, others are reeling after losing their jobs. Still others have very real worries for their health or that of a loved one; according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming.”
Dr. Helene Malabed, a family medicine doctor who says her practice includes about 200 patients who benefit from cannabis use, says she is seeing patients who are “spinning out” as a result of the pandemic. “They’re panicking, because they don’t know what’s going to happen the next day,” she says. “And the spinning thoughts trigger physical symptoms — shortness of breath, stomach aches, headaches.”
Cargile says sales of microdose edibles have increased since the outbreak, and 1:1 CBD-to-THC-ratio products have become much more popular. “That mix helps people reduce their stress, but because it’s a microdose they’re able to still function and work from home,” she says.
Cannabidiol, a cannabinoid like THC, is not considered a psychoactive agent, and has been proven to relieve anxiety, according to the National Institutes of Health. It also has been shown to be more effective when taken in conjunction with a low dose of THC.
With health officials warning against smoking and/or vaping marijuana during the pandemic, Cargile points out that edibles are a better alternative. Dixie Elixirs markets the sustainably-sourced Dixie Synergy Milk Chocolate 1:1, which contains 200 milligrams of CBD and THC in equal measure, again blended for its anti-anxiety properties. It is available at a dozen locations in Sacramento and at 420 F Street in Davis.
Renowned olive oil maker Kathryn Tomajan has invented a clever way to create a slightly psychoactive salad: Pot d’Huile marijuana-infused extra virgin olive oil. This gourmet item from San Francisco is harvested from local family farms and mixed to allow cannabis-loving chefs to carefully control the dosage they serve to their friends and family: One milliliter, the company claims, equals 1 milligram of CBD. Pot d’Huile, available only through its online store, also offers a THC varietal.
For a mico-microdose, Kiva Confections sells its 5:1 CBD-THC Dark Chocolate Kiva Bar. Unlike some edible manufacturers, which use alcohol to extract the cannabinoid from the marijuana plant to remove flavorful terpenes and deliver a purer chocolate flavor, Kiva uses cold water extract to preserve the terpenes “for a full spectrum, whole plant cannabis experience.”
Kiva also makes a product for folks who find themselves under pressure to be super-productive in the midst of the pandemic, and for whom a little buzz won’t get in the way: Kiva Bites Cannabis Infused Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans. Kiva products are available at three Sacramento dispensaries.
Cargile says she is glad to see that so many people are being helped through this difficult time by the cannabis industry. “Frankly, I was surprised when the industry was declared essential,” she says. “And I think we now know that the government made the right decision. Going forward, we know things will never return to normal, and we’ll just have to see what the community and what society wants from us.”
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Many local leaders and members of the commercial cannabis community are still optimistic about the November 2018 passage of five ballot measures in El Dorado County that lay the groundwork for a fully legalized and regulated cannabis industry.
In a series of new orders and regulations, state authorities have eased restrictions on cannabis dispensaries and on restaurants in the booze business to help them weather the financial impact of shelter-in-place orders.