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Senior Susan Williams is assisted by Cultivation Technician Kylen Ledford at the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Northern California.
[Photos and Text by Sharon Letts]

Grandma self-medicating again? Relax, it’s raw Cannabis.

Sixty-seven-year-old Susan Williams (a pseudonym) is a retired public relations professional from Northern California. Gardening is she and her husband’s primary hobby, with the couple growing and canning up to 90 percent of their own food each year.

As with many active seniors, Williams said she is feeling the effect of decades of toiling in the garden, suffering from osteoarthritis – mainly in her hands and back hip.

“It was actually a grower-friend who suggested I try Cannabis. I then checked with my doctor and he said it wouldn’t hurt me.”

Williams said she chooses to medicate by eating raw leaves, harvesting them herself for optimum effect.

Cultivation Technician Kylen Ledford assists retired doctor John Anderson harvest leaves at the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Northern California. Anderson, who is in remission with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, will add the leaves to a green drink he and his wife make each morning to boost their immune system.
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Cultivation Technician Kylen Ledford assists retired doctor John Anderson harvest leaves at the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Northern California. Anderson, who is in remission with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, will add the leaves to a green drink he and his wife make each morning to boost their immune system.

“I was given a ‘Sour Diesel’ plant and started eating the midsized leaves just off the bush,” Williams explained. “I would eat up to ten leaves a day, and felt a noticeable difference in about a week, and continued eating the leaves until it was time to harvest the plant. I have since had people give me leaves, but I think it’s the fresh ones that really worked.”

Williams added she made an alcohol-based tincture using trim – or leaves and small stems – taking three droppers-full at a time, but said it was not as effective as eating the fresh, green leaves.

“I have told many of my friends about ingesting raw Cannabis, and recommend that if they want to do this they should get a California 215 license so they don’t get in trouble,” Williams advised.

The stigma of Cannabis is what holds most back from experiencing the medicinal benefits of the plant.

Registered Nurse Lanny Swerdlow, stated many patients returning to Cannabis as medicine had used it recreationally years prior. “Of all the reasons for stopping, not one was for negative reasons against the herb,” Swerdlow informed. “All of them stopped due to the stigma that came with it when a job or kids came into play, or they “just didn’t think I should use it any longer.”

Post 1996, 15 years after the enactment of California’s Proposition 215, declaring Cannabis good medicine, and the Golden State’s tote board now tallies 12.6 percent of its senior population as card-carrying Medical Cannabis patients.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports aches and pains a common malady among the aging in this country, with 47.5 million or 21.8 percent, of its senior population complaining of some kind of disability – with Arthritis or rheumatism topping the ailment list.

Patients harvest raw Cannabis leaves at the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Northern California.
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Patients harvest raw Cannabis leaves at the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Northern California.

Fifty-six-year-old, Dr. Mollie Fry is a double-mastectomy patient currently serving a mandatory five year sentence in California on federal marijuana charges. Fry’s grandfather, Francis Pottinger, founded the specialty of internal medicine in this country, but Fry said over-prescribed pharmaceuticals are a huge problem with the elderly population. As a physician she often prescribed cannabis for myriad symptoms over pharmaceuticals.

“The multiple side effects of most prescribed pharmaceutical drugs are responsible for many negative complications, many times forcing patients to be prescribed even more drugs harmful to the body,” Fry explained in an e-mail from Dublin Federal Correctional Institution. “Cannabis treats many of the chronic conditions that effect this population without dangerous side effects.”

Pure Analytics is a testing laboratory for Cannabis in California. Samantha Miller is president and chief scientist, and explains the differences found within the Cannabis plant, and why there is so much confusion in regards to recreational use versus medical application.

“The primary difference is the effect felt by the patient and how the substance interacts with our biochemistry,” Miller explains. “THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive component in Cannabis, responsible for mind-altering effects, but can provide relief for pain, nausea, appetite loss, depression and insomnia, as well as other ailments.”

Senior Susan Williams suffers from Osteoarthritis and ingests five raw Cannabis leaves daily to combat the pain with great success.
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Senior Susan Williams suffers from osteoarthritis and ingests five raw cannabis leaves daily to combat the pain with great success.

Miller said the non-psychoactive CBDs, or Cannabinoids are much less prevalent in Cannabis, but when presented in appreciable amounts provide safe relief for pain. And when ingested raw, the medicinal benefits increase.

The silver haired Williams’ hands are slightly crooked and worn from years of good work in the garden, but they no longer ache with pain.

“If you asked me a year ago if I would have tried this remedy, I would have laughed at you,” Williams mused. “Now, I’m telling my friends.”

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Editor’s note: Sharon Letts began her love of gardening in Southern California by her mother’s side, watching as she buried fish heads at the base of roses.

At 24, Sharon hung her shingle, “Secret Garden,” planting flower beds for dainty ladies. Gardening led to producing and writing for television with “Secret Garden Productions.”

Today Sharon continues to write about gardening and all that implies, advocating for the bud, and writing for many magazines, including DOPE (Defending Our Patients Everywhere).

She also pens “Road Trip: In Search of Good Medicine,” touring MMJ states, following the Green Rush.
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