“You bet I did, and I enjoyed it!” said businessman Michael Bloomberg when answering a reporter’s question about cannabis consumption previous to his first run for mayor of New York City, where he went on to serve three terms. I had the same response back in 1965, and went on to enjoy “recreational” cannabis consumption for many years until I stopped somewhere in the ’70s. Like many of my contemporaries of the time, I had heard about cannabis having medicinal applications, mainly for pain management and as a treatment for glaucoma. But since I did not have pain or glaucoma in my youth, I was primarily a “recreational” cannabis consumer. As I crossed over into my senior years in 2003, I began to experience intermittent joint discomfort as arthritis set in. I managed it with a variety of OTC analgesics until they no longer could provide complete relief. An appointment with my clinician in 2006 resulted in a prognosis that my “joints were collapsing” and I was prescribed Vicodin to manage the pain “as needed”. This worked very well, and I was able to order another 60 tabs of Vicodin online that would be mailed to me after the prescribing clinician approved the refill. As the discomfort evolved, I would often take an extra half tab. One day, the refill order was denied, and my clinician asked me to make an appointment to discuss the possible consequences of long term opioid drug consumption that may lead to a dependence on opioids. To say the least I was surprised when the good doctor asked me if I was familiar with the Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215) and if I wanted to try cannabis in lieu of opioids to manage pain. Being a former “recreational” consumer, it was like I had won the lottery when he gave me my first recommendation on his official Rx stationary. I couldn’t wait to go into one of the dispensaries in Vallejo, Sebastopol, then Cotati and purchase high grade cannabis legally. Being a seasoned consumer, I selected only the most potent strains to evaluate the efficacy of cannabis in the management of my pain. Not only would I become extremely euphoric, which I expected, but my pain went away, which was doubly rewarding since it was a pathway out of opioid dependence. As time went on I educated myself about the various cannabis strains and how the responses vary depending on strain selection and consumer physiology. I learned that cannabis sativa could relieve my pain as well as cause me to feel energetic and motivated. Conversely, I learned that cannabis indica would not only relieve my pain, it would guarantee a restful night’s sleep due to the highly sedative response I experienced. Sativa is typically regarded by many consumers as day use, while indica is favored for evening consumption when you are not going anywhere but to sleep. If you have seen or spoken with me during the day or early evening since 2009, I have been “on” sativa at the time. But since I do not appear as the stereotypical “stoner”, there was no indication that I was “on” anything. As I have indicated here repeatedly, dose control is the key to responsible use. You can tell when people have consumed too much of anything that will alter their mental state, especially when alcohol is involved. There were patients who recently testified at our ongoing public hearings about regulated cannabis in Benicia, including myself. I was “on it” at the time. Were they on it as well? Maybe, and so what? We are your friends and neighbors who found relief from their ailments with cannabis. My early life included helping to care for a parent with MS, long before advances in medicinal cannabis applications brought the world an oral mucosal spray by a United Kingdom pharmaceutical company. The product, Sativex, is approved for use in over twenties countries except the United States and is extremely effective in relieving symptoms of MS. My unwavering advocacy for cannabis in Benicia is driven by my compassion for those that benefit from the medicinal efficacy of cannabis, especially in the lives of seniors and veterans. Regrettably, some of our community members have publicly expressed a view that they acknowledge the medicinal efficacy of cannabis, they just don’t want us to be able to acquire it in our town. I have turned my back to anyone that has said this. Some of these folks may appear on the 2018 ballot to elect two expiring council seats. Should this occur, I will be reminding the community of their views on regulated cannabis since we started talking about it close to a year ago.
Now that it is legal, there may be interest of the uninitiated to examine the varying human responses to cannabis. If you are 21, you will be able to purchase cannabis products at a growing number of regulated storefronts in the Bay Area. You will have a one-on-one conversation with the cannatech behind the counter who will recommend products according to your experience level and specific needs, such as day energy or night relaxed. They will most likely recommend a low dose edible product so you can become accustomed to the response. Remember, the edible cannabis products take a while to metabolize through your liver. The techs will tell you this again when you buy it. You may even find a vape pen a handy way to administer your medicine later on, but you will only have to smoke it if you choose. Some traditional consumers enjoy the ritual of smoking the flowers, but I am an advocate of smokeless inhalation with vaporizers. If you are presently using Rx opioids for pain management, consider getting on cannabis and off opioids. States where cannabis is regulated are consistently indicating 25 percent reductions in opioid-related deaths. Make sure you get your unused Rx meds to the drop box in front of the police station. Most of us received the flyer from Republic Services about the box. The new rules regulating cannabis in our state include a provision for Prop. 215 patients to have the sales tax waived if they have purchased an ID from the state, but seniors and veterans can save even more at some storefronts that offer discounts for us. My dispensary in Cotati offers 10 percent senior/veteran discounts. Harborside in Oakland, like a big cannabis Costco, offers a whopping 15 percent discount to seniors and vets. Cotati will be open to adult use sales on Jan. 2nd. They expect huge crowds with traffic and parking challenges. Hopefully, good neighbor Lowe’s across the street will allow overflow parking.
Stan Golovich is a 31-year Benicia resident, senior, veteran, artist, and cannabis advocate-educator. He is an alumnus of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, America’s first cannabis college. He is the husband of former Benicia City Councilmember Jan Cox-Golovich, and is often seen riding his bike on First Street, said to be the only bicycle in the world with a stained glass window in the frame, a product of his work in stained glass.