img_3084Karen Munkacy, MD is the founder and president of Garden Remedies. The following column appeared in the January 15, 2017 edition of the Metrowest Daily News. 

Marijuana As Medicine: Why Dispensaries Remain Important

Karen Munkacy, MD

Marijuana is medicine, and has been used as medicine for thousands of years. On December 15, 2016, recreational marijuana became legal in Massachusetts. You may wonder how Massachusetts medical marijuana dispensaries are impacted by this latest development in the long history of marijuana. To tell you the truth, not much.

As a registered non-profit Massachusetts marijuana dispensary, Garden Remedies of Newton provides legal medical marijuana (and marijuana-infused products) to people who have a Massachusetts Medical Marijuana card and are using marijuana to treat a medical condition. Based on the growing body of research about the efficacy of medical marijuana for a range of health conditions, this need is not going away anytime soon.

Cannabis interacts with our bodies uniquely because of our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our endocannabinoid system, like our immune or lymphatic system, can be found throughout our bodies. The endocannabinoid system works with the cannabinoids in marijuana to give us the medicinal effects.

Cannabinoids are the fundamental ingredients in cannabis that contribute to different types of effects and medical uses that can be provided. THC and CBD are the two most abundant naturally occurring cannabinoids, and they determine if medicine will be more cerebral and psychoactive, or physical, with effects felt in the muscles and joints. Some heavy-CBD strains won’t get you “high,” but will help relieve pain, inflammation and treat other conditions. There are many other cannabinoids that contribute to the unique balance, which is what makes each strain different.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are staffed by trained patient care advocates who work with patients on selecting marijuana strains and consumption methods that are right for them. At Garden Remedies, we help patients record their experiences with medical cannabis in a titration journal. We introduce new patients with a very low dose and ask them to keep track of how they are feeling as they gradually increase the dosage to an optimal level.

Consumption methods are an important consideration that medical marijuana dispensaries help patients address. Some patients don’t like smoking and prefer edibles. Others are using vaporization pens filled with refined cannabis oil we produce at our local facility. Our patient care advocates help patients navigate their options and make informed choices.

As a provider of medication, quality control is a critical distinction for us. We grow our plants using organic methods in an effort to exceed the rigorous standards set by the state and under strict environmental controls in a local indoor facility, which is visited regularly by state regulators. Each strain is carefully selected and cared for by our cultivation managers from seed until harvest. Our extracts and edibles are prepared under the most meticulous standards for quality and dosage. You know exactly what you’re getting, how much you’re getting, and why you’re getting it.

It is our mission as a non-profit to help patients get the medicine they need, legally, reliably and safely. We are gratified for the opportunity to improve the quality of life for our patients, and look forward to doing so in the months and years to come.