Sitting in the living room of her beautiful 1930s Northeast Portland home, Judy Fisher puffs on a vape pen of cannabidiol oil. As she exhales, a hint of lavender permeates the room.
At age 70, Fisher has discovered the benefits of cannabis.
“I’m a disciple,” she said. “I would go out and give testimonials if I didn’t think the feds were going to come and put me on the no-fly list.”
Fisher is among a growing number of Oregon seniors using marijuana extracts to treat aches and ailments. She’s not looking for a high — “If I wanted to get a buzz, I really like bourbon,” she said.
Rather, she’s using products made from cannabidiol oil, also called CBD.
“Until I understood about CBD, I thought people who got medical marijuana cards did it so they could get high and get it cheaper,” Fisher said. “I was uninformed.”
While tetrahydrocannabinol — THC — is the component that gives marijuana users a high, the compound she uses has no intoxicating effects. It’s been shown to be beneficial in treating nerve pain, insomnia, anxiety and other disorders without threat of overdose.
But the federal government makes no distinction between the two components. It’s all related to marijuana and thus considered a schedule 1 drug — as dangerous by classification as heroin. Fisher is especially worried now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Obama-era policy of non-interference with state marijuana laws.
The two components derived from cannabis “are completely different but the government hasn’t made that distinction, and certainly Jeff Sessions doesn’t know anything about it,” she said. “Nobody is talking about the science of these products, and that’s hindering advances in medical care.”
For about the past year, Fisher, a retired nurse practitioner, has been spreading the gospel: in her painting class, at the gym, to women experiencing sleepless nights from menopause. She’s walked into “the local pot shop” with friends, guiding them through an often intimidating process for seniors new to cannabis.
Her journey started after Oregon legalized small amounts of home-grown marijuana in 2015.
“My son and I thought it would be a lark to grow some pot in our backyard because we could, and it was fun and we named the plants,” she said. “We harvested it and I never really used it because I discovered I don’t like smoking that stuff.”
Not long afterward, Fisher herniated a disc in her back, and she’s had chronic nerve pain ever since. She began researching the medicinal benefits of cannabis and cannabidiol oil, but when she talked to her doctors about it, they offered little help or recommendations.
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