By David Fiedler

The 420 Times recently discovered that one of our own writers is a relatively new medical marijuana patient, despite having recreational experience going back almost 45 years. When we caught up to Old Hippie for this interview, he was celebrating his first full year of using cannabis medicinally, as well as still being alive after a rather scary medical episode.

The 420 Times: We’re glad you’re still with us! Did your medical caregivers know you were a medical marijuana patient?

Old Hippie: No, I wouldn’t tell any of them unless I felt it was relevant to my treatment and that they weren’t going to make any notes on it, and I’ll tell you why in two words: Timothy Garon. He was a musician, about my age, and he died after being refused a liver transplant solely because he was a medical marijuana patient. I trust my own doctors, but not anyone past them, like insurance companies or hospital administrators. I do a lot of research on the effects of cannabis cross-referenced with every pharmaceutical drug I take, so I’m taking my own responsibility for that.

T420T: What events or medical situations led you to become a medical marijuana patient?

OH: I had a decade-long depression that started off as a reasonable reaction to some life challenges, but got so entrenched that it eventually caused a change in my brain chemistry, to the point where I was unable to even think on a normal level most of the time. It felt like my head was stuffed with fluff, like Winnie-the-Pooh. That was the main problem I was hoping to solve.

T420T: How has medical marijuana helped you physically or emotionally in dealing with your health issues?

OH: Maybe I’m just the luckiest guy in the world, but it’s been like a miracle. All my mental fog cleared up in the first week, my arthritis hardly ever bothers me anymore, and my blood pressure went down by around 10 or 15 percent too, which I was secretly hoping for but hadn’t really expected.

Using cannabis also showed me that I was subject to anxiety and even panic attacks, because it cleared those problems up too. But I didn’t realize or admit to myself that I even had those problems, until they weren’t there anymore and my life was so much better.

T420T: What methods and regimens have you found most useful for taking your medical marijuana?

OH: Well, once I did some research and found out about vaporizers, I knew I wouldn’t be smoking. Smoking anything, even cannabis, is bad for your lungs and your health due to carbon monoxide and combustion chemicals in general. It also raises your blood pressure, and for me that’s particularly bad. So I generally vaporize, to the tune of two hits every two hours or so. That dose hasn’t changed in a year.

T420T: Wait, what? Pretty much everyone knows that you develop a tolerance to weed, and you will always need more to get high…

OH: Yes, but that’s for getting high. For medical use, put “getting high” out of your mind, and concentrate on the dose you actually need to counteract your physical or mental problem. Generally, it will be far less than a typical recreational user, or conversely far more. I know people with severe pain who regularly take amounts that would send me to the moon, but they need it for their particular problem.

I’m lucky, in that my particular mix of brain chemistry only requires vaporizing about 0.05 grams/day to keep my depression at bay, but I’m also prone to anxiety, and the dose for that is all over the map, strictly depending on how much stress I’m under. I often use Canna Caps or tincture that I make myself; those have been very handy in the last few weeks while I’ve been recovering from pneumonia and couldn’t even vaporize. But I stick to light doses that usually get me to [2] and never more than [4], otherwise it interferes with my concentration. The bonus is that I still haven’t developed a tolerance.

T420T: Which strains do you find most useful?

OH: When I first started as a patient, I looked at various lists of strains and what they might be good for before I went into a dispensary, and then I bought a little bit of everything that might work. I’ve mostly settled on Sour Diesel for my daily brain chemistry, and Purple Kush for anxiety and physical pain or stress. But at times when I’ve found one strain to be lacking, I invent my own.

T420T: Do you mean you’re breeding hybrids?

OH: No, I don’t even do growing myself, but breeding is a different level of commitment and research entirely, and I really respect the people working that end. What I do is take strains with known effects and physically combine them. For example, Purple Kush is good stuff, but it often makes me more sleepy than I’d like. I have some Casey Jones, which if I use on its own, gets me feeling a bit anxious and speeds up my heart rate. So I mix them together – one part CJ to 2 parts PK – and presto, I have a mixture where the two components cancel each other’s side effects out. It’s kind of like what pharmacists used to do by mixing medicines for an individual patient, rather than just fill orders like they mostly do now.

T420T: Have you found medical marijuana to be consistent in its effects?

OH: For quite a while now, I’ve had a theory that cannabis, in small doses, tends to normalize your brain and body chemistry. This is borne out, at least in my experience, by the fact that I’ve had a consistent problem with mental “fog” and depression, that a consistent dose of a consistent strain has consistently helped me with.

But now, the combined shock to my system of cardiac arrest, heart attack, and pneumonia has totally thrown my body out of whack, and I’ve found that I have to almost start experimenting from scratch. To me, that’s just more proof that everybody needs a different mix of cannabinoids, depending solely on what you’re physically and mentally dealing with. This is why patients understand that there will never be one magic cannabis “cure-all” pill – synthetic or otherwise – that can help everyone equally. Only the vast diversity of strains and the actual plant material have the potential to help so many different conditions and people.

T420T: Have you told your family and friends about your status as a patient? And what kind of resistance have you met, if any?

OH: Interesting question. I live with my wife and youngest son, and I told them everything as soon as I saw that cannabis was working for me. Otherwise, it would have been just a failed experiment, like some of the sample drugs my doctors have given me that either didn’t work or had miserable side effects. My high-school-age son had some serious mental readjustment to do, because he associated marijuana with “stoners” who only wanted to get high all the time and take every drug they could find. But he’s much happier having a father who’s now really there mentally, emotionally, and physically for him. And his attitudes have definitely changed.

I haven’t told other family members, frankly, because they’re much more judgemental, so I’m trying to ease them into understanding more gradually. I’ve already seen some interesting reactions from some of my friends who do know… emotional reactions based on their own history, not having anything to do with me. It seems a bit ironic that none of them have batted an eye about some of the really scary pharmaceutical drugs I’m taking, though.

T420T: What advice would you give to patients who want to persuade other family members to try medical marijuana for their health issues?

OH: I would remind them that cannabis is the safest medicine in the world. Nobody has ever died from it – unlike virtually every FDA-approved drug on the market – so what’s the worst that can happen, you get a little dizzy, giggly, or high? Big deal. There’s nothing immoral about side effects, and it’s also true that many patients never even get high, once they find their proper dose.