By Daniel Asarch
I grew up in the 1980s and a child of the DARE program. Every day I would be inundated with this brain dealing with drug ads and other anti-cannabis propaganda. The government stoner stigma and fear tactic worked for many years, but I finally gave up trying cannabis for the first time in college. After trying it I didn’t see what the big buzz about cannabis was as it didn’t do much for me other than give me the nibbles. Over the years I used cannabis sporadically for recreational purposes and yet I didn’t have much knowledge of the plant. Even when I attended pharmacy school in the early 2000s, all I learned was that cannabis is marijuana and marinol, a synthetic medicine.
As a pharmacist, I have had patients on Marinol to stimulate their appetites, as they have been burdened with either HIV or some form of cancer. All of my patients preferred cannabis over Marinol. They complained that Marinol had nasty side effects and that it didn’t help much in stimulating appetite. However, my patients were stuck between a rock and a hard place as medical marijuana was allowed, but at the same time, it couldn’t be legally purchased anywhere at the time. Aside from the need for appetite stimulation, some of my HIV and cancer patients have also been given opioids or opioid-related drugs to control their chronic pain.
The hardest part of my 17 years as a pharmacist is watching people become addicted to opioids for chronic pain relief. I’ve probably given thousands of pain relievers to patients. All of them had legitimate scripts, but I’m also sure there have been some conscientious patients who may have slipped away. Opioid addiction takes a toll on the patient’s mind, body and environment. In recent years, opioid overdoses have been on the rise and lives are devastating.
You may be wondering what my story so far is about. Well, I’ll tell you in a moment. As a pharmacist, I have made a commitment not to cause harm and to help as many people as possible. Growing up, like most people, I was taught to think inside the box and that most things are black and white, not gray. Given my life experiences in childhood, college, pharmacy school, and working with patients, I can clearly tell you that this is all a lie. I started thinking outside the box when I started working as a compounding pharmacist. The compounding pharmacy allows it to work outside the confines of big pharma and the FDA to some extent. Here I learned that hormones and vitamin supplements play a role in some of our body functions. Not all diseases, disorders, and dysfunctions require a great medicine to correct them.
This is where the pursuit of my cannabis knowledge began.
Although cannabis has been around and used for over thousands and thousands of years, we actually have very minimal FDA research on this wonderful plant. However, we have peer-to-peer research and benefits for personal use that is documented by a large world population. Cannabis knowledge can be found anywhere, be it in books, on the internet, or through speakers on the subject. Is everything factual? Most of the information is factual, the rest is based on myths and chilling madness. There are at least 2 books I can recommend: Cannabis Pharmacy and The Cannabis Health Index. After reading these two books, I felt I had a better understanding of how cannabis affects the body. I also learned about the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays an important role in our body’s homeostasis. Unfortunately, the ECS is only lightly touched in medical school, pharmacy school, and even nursing school. Hopefully, over time, the healthcare system will see the potential of cannabis as real medicine.
For the past 3 years I have tried to make my way into the cannabis industry. I started my journey as an associate publisher for Sensi Magazine, a lifestyle magazine with a touch of cannabis that was originally from Colorado. I helped build the Las Vegas market. During my time at Sensi, I had the opportunity to network with many of the leading companies in the cannabis industry and watch the cannabis scene in Las Vegas mature. After immersing myself in the cannabis scene for a while, I decided it was my time to take my cannabis journey to the next level.
In 2018, the USDA passed the Farming Act to allow further legalization of industrial hemp. I saw this as an opportunity to open my own cannabis business under this new vocation and see where my path was. At the end of 2019 I opened Happy Hemp Pharm. Happy Hemp Pharm is a small boutique company that prides itself on handcrafted, high quality products.
Unfortunately, as you all know, Covid has reached 2020 and slowed all events to a complete halt. Fortunately, there was more time for product development and placement. The only place that didn’t close during the pandemic was social media. You’d think with legalization in the states and parts of the world, it would be easy to navigate the waters of social media, which it really isn’t. Since cannabis is still classified as a class 1 controlled substance nationwide, Facebook and Instagram are still discriminating against posts about cannabis.
With almost a quarter done by 2021, I plan to keep growing steadily and adapting my business to the ever-changing cannabis / hemp industry.
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Editor’s Note: Daniel Asarch will be a speaker and panelist at the upcoming G4 Live Budtender Awards.