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Cannabis and women's health, with Dr. Melanie Bone

Cannabis and women’s health, with Dr. Melanie Bone

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By now, we’ve all heard of the concept of using cannabis to treat ailments like cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s, seizures, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s, and terminal illnesses, but fortunately, those aren’t necessarily what physicians are most commonly confronted with. What then, can be done about things like anxiety, pain, insomnia, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and other women’s health issues? 

Today we are joined by Dr. Melanie Bone, a physician in Florida practicing cannabis-based medicine. Dr. Bone has an impressive medical background from working as an OBGYN and delivering thousands (literally thousands!) of babies, to doing robotic surgery, and now, helping geriatric patients navigate cannabis medicine. In this episode, we hone in on one particular sphere of interest, and that is the way that Dr. Bone has integrated her OBGYN expertise with her medicinal cannabis practice. We hear about how her son’s run-in with cannabis set her forth on her research and ignited her passion, and how Dr. Bone integrates cannabis to alleviate women’s health issues. She lists the various women’s health issues that can be treated with cannabis, from debilitating menstrual cramps to sexual function, and breaks down the endocannabinoid system and the effects of vaginal suppositories. We find out how women and other estrogen-predominant people react differently to cannabis than men and those with more testosterone, and why microdosing is far more effective for the former. As it turns out, edibles also affect women differently, and Dr. Bone explains the ‘start low and go slow’ method that they should be approached with.

We move on to dissect Florida’s current cannabis market and prescribing model, speculating on the dangers of over-regulation going forward. Dr. Bone fills us in on why she doesn’t believe the THC limit model to be of much use, and why she is such a fan of ratio products! Tune in for this informative episode on cannabis and women’s health, straight from the source of someone who truly has seen it all!

Full transcript:

CP: This is The Cannabis Enigma, cutting through the smoke to have informed, serious conversations for regular people.

EG: Hi, I’m Elana Goldberg.

CP: I’m Dr. Codi Peterson.

EG: What have you got for us today, Codi?

CP: This one is really special to me. Today, we’re talking with Dr. Melanie Bone, a physician in Florida who has been doing this for quite a while and by this, I mean, practicing cannabis-based medicine and really doing a bang-up job if you ask me. Really wonderful interview and you knew Dr. Bone before this interview but this was my first experience with her, super-bright woman.

EG: Yeah, she’s fantastic and such amazing energy, right?

CP: Good vibes, there was nothing but good vibes in this one and Dr. Bone is doing some really awesome work from seeing patients, she’s an OBGYN, she’s delivered thousands of babies or some craziness but what’s really cool about it is she’s now actually helping geriatric patients, patients who are in long-term care facilities and who really don’t have a whole lot of family support. 

She’s helping them navigate cannabis medicine and I think that is just absolutely beautiful and serving a much-needed role, especially in a place like Florida, I don’t know if you’ve been, there are some older people in Florida.

EG: I’ve heard this, I haven’t been but –

CP: Yeah, it’s almost ironic because we looked for the fountain of youth in Florida, that’s like the mythical thing that was supposed to be found there and then we sent — it’s the most dense in senior citizens.

EG: I love it at all, that’s why they’re moving there, they’re looking for it.

CP: Yeah, I mean, maybe that’s it, maybe the fountain of youth is just sunshine and humidity.

EG: And weed.

CP: Well, Florida’s got a pretty tight medical program, which is why Dr. Bone is serving such an important need. They have a very prescription-only model, there is no recreational adult use in Florida and the dispensary model is very zipped up and owned by just a few companies.

It is a challenging landscape to navigate and Dr. Bone is just doing phenomenal work helping patients. Let’s go ahead and dive right in on this one if you’re cool with it and then for the listeners, if you want to hang around afterwards, we have a segment from Americans for Safe Access here on the podcast and they share some useful insights every week so be sure to listen when we’re done. Ready?

EG: All right, let’s listen to Dr. Bone.


CP: All right, welcome Dr. Melanie Bone, my name is Dr. Codi Peterson and this is The Cannabis Enigma Podcast, we’re here at MJBizCon so when you hear someone screaming down the hall, just know that it’s not murder, that is fun. Welcome, Dr. Bone.

MB: Thank you for having me, it’s wonderful to be here. Yes, a lot of people, a lot of activity.

CP: A lot of hustle-bustle.

MB: Yes. 

CP: I’m really excited because it’s my first conference, I’ve never been to anything like this before, pretty new in the cannabis space. I’m a pediatric pharmacist, I’ve done that for six, eight years, something like that but cannabis is sort of a new endeavor for me, I’m actually getting my master’s degree in medical cannabis science from the University of Maryland.

MB: I have a friend who just did that by the way and he’s now getting his Ph.D. Yup.

CP: Pushing the limit, that’s great. The Ph.D. is going to be on what?

MB: In cannabis, he’s getting it in Florida, he did the Maryland program.

CP: Very cool, I love that, okay. Well, without further ado, I think before we get into what I want to talk to you about which is women’s health, we probably ought to explain why that’s pertinent. Could you just tell us a little bit more about kind of what your background is in medicine and then what you’re doing in cannabis now and we’ll just keep it brief. I know you wear a lot of hats.

MB: Yeah, sure. I do, I wear a lot of hats but the reason this space, in particular, is really important to me is, I’m an OBGYN by training, I delivered thousands of babies and –

CP: Thousands.

MB: Thousands, yes. My husband always jokes, we go anywhere in the world and someone stops me in an airport and said, “You delivered my baby” but did a lot of surgery, robotic surgery and I really loved OBGYN but some things happened in my life. I lost my mom and my sister in a very short period of time and it made me want to do something more and different. 

I also have a child, I have five children actually but one of my children, I would say, got into trouble with cannabis at a fairly young age and I can go into that more at some point but eventually came to say to me, “Mom, I use cannabis for my social anxiety, my mood issues and I want you to understand the medicine and the science behind it before you tell me no” and together, we learned and I studied and I said, “You know, this makes a lot of sense.” I said, “How could I somehow merge what I love and know about women’s health with cannabis?” As I got more and more into that space, I learned so much and it’s a wonderful place to be to work the inner section of women’s health and cannabis.

CP: It’s beautiful and it’s super important, you know, I talk about this regularly but we know that women respond differently to cannabis than men and this even just that alone makes women finding the effective cannabis therapy harder because the majority of cannabis consumers is slightly more even male and male-driven industry. There’s a lot of needs for women, particularly when you expand your scope and consider the endocannabinoid system, right? 

Which is, highly intertwined with the – all of your reproductive tract, your endocrine system. I mean, whether male or female but in particular, because female health issues do have a particular burden on society and are frankly something that I’m not just jealous of. I think this is such an amazing opportunity. What are some of the ways that you’re integrating cannabis to help with women’s health?

MB: Great question. The first thing I would say and you pointed it out, women use cannabis differently than men and as a cannabis practitioner, I’ll often hear that story of, “Well, I want to use cannabis because I read it could help me with this but you know, when I was 18, I got high once and I got so paranoid, I thought there was a sign over me saying “Stoned, stoned” It was awful and I had to go to bed and I never want to do it again and so I’m afraid” and I hear that story over and over again from women and I think the reason why is because the estrogen in their body absolutely impacts the way they metabolize and the way their receptors work with cannabis. 

Sometimes we have to keep that in mind that what might be good for someone who has an XY chromosome or makeup or I should say, someone who has testosterone versus someone who has estrogen, it’s different because we have to be mindful of our trans population and what happens with that.

CP: Sure, so much to consider there.

MB: Yeah, what I would say is this, from menarche, when your periods first start, all the way through menopause and beyond, there are great places to use cannabis either in conjunction with regular allopathic medicine or in place of it to help with symptoms. We’ll start for example, with menstrual cramps, right? They start at a very young age and certainly, while no parent I think is going to want to give their 12-year-old cannabis for menstrual cramps. 

As young adult women get more menstrual cramps and we have more novel delivery systems that don’t entail maybe getting high, we can find great applications. There is a really neat company in the UK that makes CBD-coated tampons and they’re doing some really nice research, definitely diminishes cramps and complaints. They’re actually going from the FDA here in the US to have their product approved, which is really neat but I do use suppositories for women who have menstrual cramps. 

How about take menstrual cramps to an extreme and with women with endometriosis, severe pelvic pain and pain with sex, and pain with urination and moving their bowels. Suppositories can be wonderful, they can use every other form too, you know? Ingestion, inhalation, et cetera, topical, transdermal. Sexually, for women’s sexual function, I think cannabis can be very, very helpful and of course, we can’t leave out menopause and perimenopause where cannabis lines a very big place to be used.

CP: Wow, that’s a lot of women’s health issues that specifically respond to cannabis. I kind of want to unpack a little bit of those, each one. I think, talking about menstrual cramps, I think this is something that most women, not all women have dealt with at some point. I think that alone is just – and it happens every month, right? We don’t get the luxury of just when “I’m sick” kind of deal. This is just part of our biology or a woman’s biology for that matter.

One indication that I’m super interested in is polycystic ovarian syndrome kind of ties into your endometriosis talk. Tell me more about the endocannabinoid system using suppositories and then maybe tell me about whether women get high when they use vaginal suppositories.

MB: Okay. It’s interesting because I have seen some people use high dose suppositories and say, they have no psycho – 

CP: They even contain THC, yeah.

MB: Even THC but then I have some women who say, “Yes, I do feel the psychoactivity” and I think that is their individual endocannabinoid system. Things get absorbed very readily through the vagin mucosa and through the rectum.

CP: Yup, similar to our mouths, right? I mean, this is a mucus membrane is what we call it and there can be transferred of drugs across it, the same way any of the listeners who think they can leave a tincture in their mouth, same premise, just different orifice.

MB: Absolutely right. For some, there’s a belief that it stays in a blood supply that’s primarily in the pelvis, which is why suppositories, you know, how there’s the first pass liver effect when you put something through the mouth and it goes through the liver, there are people who feel like there’s almost like a first pass uterine effect where the compounds are absorbed, go up through the uterus, which is why you do get a lot of relief of pain.

CP: Almost locally.

MB: Almost locally, right. I think those women probably don’t experience the psychoactivity that other women might too if they don’t have as much local effect of their cannabinoids but I do think they definitely work.

CP: That’s the important part, I really don’t care if it gets into the blood or not. I need to know that the patient gets relief from this medicine and I think we get caught up in that a little bit when we’re trying to prove the therapeutic benefits. We’re like, “We don’t understand how cannabis works therefore, it’s too dangerous or too unknown.” Really, what matters is, does it help patients, and is it safe to continue giving and I don’t know, you tell me, is that the case for your suppositories?

MB: Of course. That’s always the struggle we have when people want data and research and medical research to establish exactly how something works.

CP: At what dose.

MB: Yes, and at what dose but you know, it’s like anything, if alcohol were the medicine of choice. By the way, alcohol has been used very effectively for menstrual cramps and premature labor, okay?

CP: Interesting.

MB: Right, at what dose? When you say to someone, “Well, we’re going to give you two ounces of alcohol” you know you can give that to one person and they won’t feel anything and you give it to someone else and they’re on the floor. Therefore I say, it’s not that different with cannabis. It’s a very individualized experience and you, as a practitioner, just have to feel comfortable with navigating that with your patient and the way we do that is we use the added start low and go slow until you are comfortable and I deal with people of all ages and if they do that, I have yet to have anybody who really has a bad experience. The only bad experience is when they don’t listen to what they’re recommended.

CP: They double up on their edible early or they maybe take 10 instead of 2.5 that you recommended and they say, “Oh I couldn’t sleep, I just had this stream of consciousness the whole night in bed kicking” and I’ve seen that one for sure, in fact, I gave my mom an edible and I accidentally had that happen.

MB: What?

CP: I didn’t think five milligrams will get us there but you know, cannabis has side effects and this is because the endocannabinoid system is all over our body. It’s in our GU tract and in our female and male reproductive systems. It’s in our brain and our eyeballs which is, it makes sense that it comes with these side effects.

MB: It does and one I would also say that I learned in my years of doing this is that many women respond very favorably to micro-dosing. I don’t know, I don’t seem to see that as much with men but I definitely see with women if they feel their period coming on and they’re crampy and they’re uncomfortable. They actually make that resolution, a lot of their symptoms with as little as one to two milligrams of THC. A lot of people laugh at that. Budtenders in particular by the way.

CP: Well, people who are experienced in the current market, which leans towards recreational use.

MB: We see micro-dosing helped tremendously and it helps with everything from mood to cramping to inflammation. Yeah, it’s wonderful.

CP: To the cannabis naïve individual, one or two milligrams of THC is generally enough to be psychoactive, if you had it with a meal and all that and we’re talking about inhaled or oral actually.

MB: Right.

CP: Definitely a lot of interesting things. One thing I really want the listeners to know is I want them to recognize that women, yes, they have this estrogen and that contributes but they’ve also been shown to produce more 11-Hydroxy, meaning, they’re going to respond differently to edibles than a man as well and I think it’s super important for women to understand that they should be extra low and slow, at least the premenopausal woman I think, on gut walking that line.

MB: I agree with you 100%. I usually tell my patients, take this edible, get your paring knife out, cut it into four pieces. Each piece will be 2.5mg and if you get a one to one then you’re only getting one and a quarter milligrams per piece. Just start with that. If you don’t feel anything, then the next day, if you’re going to do it again, do two pieces and you work your way up and it seems to be a very easy way to titrate them to where they need to be.

CP: Yeah, it’s all about titration and to touch back on what you said before, go low and slow is another way of saying, medicine is an art. We don’t know how your particular brain is going to respond to this particular mix of cannabinoids and terpenes. We try it and we pay close attention and then we tinker with it and I almost find it annoying that we pretend like cannabis is different than other medicines in this regard because every medicine, particularly meds that are psychoactive like antidepressants or antipsychotics, we just try a medicine, we choose a couple of side effects we think that might be advantageous like weight gain or weight loss and we throw darts at a board and I see this in my practice as a pharmacist.

MB: That’s how funny you say that because people always say to me, “What dose, what dose?” and I say, you know, lest you think this is really different then what you do with regular medicine, let me give you an example. Birth control pills, okay, I have 50 birth control pills that I can give you. I try to look at you and hear what your biggest complaints are and I’m going to try birth control pill A. If that doesn’t work, we try to go to B and if that doesn’t work – okay, people don’t want to try on birth control pills and they kind of want to know from the very first moment, which would be the right. It’s the same thing with cannabis, I don’t know exactly where you’re going to end up but you’re going to have to be willing to try on your cannabis a little bit.

CP: Pay attention.

MB: Yeah, until you get there. You know what? Where I have great success is when I say, you go to a shoe store and you want to buy shoes, if you put the first pair on and they’re too big, you put another pair on, they’re too tight? You put another pair on. Would you just at that point after three pairs say, “Well, I guess I’m not going to wear shoes anymore.”

CP: Shoes aren’t for me. Shoes don’t work for me. Did you try the other size? There’s so much that I want to talk to you Dr. Bone because I think you’re brilliant but I wanted to jump around to a couple of things. I want to talk about the Florida medical cannabis market, which has a very unique layout. Some large companies that might have a very large stake in that but we’ll leave the politics out of this episode.

What do you think about the current prescribing model in Florida? Maybe you can explain it to our listeners a little and tell me if you think it’s working, what the good and what the bad is.

MB: Sure. I am involved in Medical Marijuana Justice League and I do a lot with legislation now.

CP: Advocating in the space in Florida, yeah. 

MB: Advocating, working on changes in the law, which go at glacier speed by the way but from the beginning, it was an interesting concept. Let’s do seed to sale, so you must grow your cannabis, harvest it, process it, and then sell it in a retail. 

CP: This all has to be in the same company so that we can – the idea is that we can best track where all of the marijuana is going. 

MB: Right and it was a safety consideration and it’s seemed like a good idea. The problem is to even think about opening a dispensary costs well over $60 million and so – 

CP: The end of the market is up to $60 million because you can’t just enter the dispensary game, you have to be seed to sale, you have to buy a farm and buy the processing equipment and blah-blah-blah, okay. 

MB: Right, so it keeps a lot of people out of the industry. 

CP: Okay, so barriers to entry. 

MB: Barriers to entry, then from the medical standpoint, there are medical practitioners, I want to say there are about 1,200 medical – 

CP: That’s quite a few. 

MB: Right, well because initially, the barrier to getting in as a practitioner was an eight-hour course. Well then, they shortened it into a two-hour course. Now, you can do a course in two hours and say you’re medical certified.

CP: Medical cannabis specialist.

MB: I worry about that because – 

CP: A lot of training to cover a system that’s in every organ of the body. 

MB: Correct, not a lot of training and the problem is we I think need to set that barrier a little higher along with continuing education because currently, the continuing education is you take the same test, the same course every time you renew your certification, right? 

CP: It’s not very challenging. 

MB: Now for patients, they see their certifier, there are 12 legitimate diagnoses for which you can get a – guaranteed to get a card. For example, cancer. You come in, you have cancer, you can get a card. ALS, Parkinson’s, seizures, terminal illnesses, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s, the problem is those are not the things we see most commonly. What do we see?

CP: Pain. 

MB: Anxiety, pain, insomnia, fibromyalgia, right? We see those and none of those are on the list, okay? 

CP: None of those? 

MB: No, so the way the list goes is there’s another diagnosis, which says, any diagnosis that you as the certifying physician feels is similar enough to one of the other diagnoses that you feel justifies the patient getting their medical marijuana card but you need to send documentation into the state, so like 90% of our patients we’re sending letters to the state documenting on – 

CP: Okay, so they gave you a caveat but they burdened you with a bunch of dumb paperwork to take that caveat or that roundabout way. 

MB: It’s true.

CP: That sounds like bureaucracy to me. There was a nod there everyone. 

MB: Then it works very differently like the patient has to see the doctor every 210 days. Now, I would say there is nothing in medicine you do every 210 days. You either see the doctor every six months, every year, maybe every three months. 

CP: Is that in nine months, 210. 

MB: It’s seven months. There’s nothing about it, right? 

CP: No, I can’t think of anything that goes seven. 

MB: Right, then they have to renew their card every year, so that just never even lines up when they see their doctor or when they have to renew their card. 

CP: It’s an extra burden to them in that regard, yeah. 

MB: They forget and then they go to the dispensary and the dispensary says, “Your certification ran” and that person takes off their card and that says, “No, my card is good” because they don’t understand the difference between the doctor doing a cert and getting a card, all right? 

CP: Okay, so there’s some room for improvement Florida. 

MB: Right, so there is a lot of logistical elements. I deal with the elderly often and you must have either a driver’s license that’s valid or a Florida State photo ID, which – 

CP: Snowbirds. 

MB: Well and when you live in assisted living for example and you haven’t driven a car in a long time and you say, “Well, I need your driver’s license” but it has the address where they lived like two years ago that doesn’t work either. There is a lot of practical things that are really hard. We’re trying so much like our governor gave us telemedicine during the pandemic and then – 

CP: It is super important for our elderly population particularly in Florida, et cetera. 

MB: Exactly and then took it away. 

CP: You guys got rid of it? A lot of states have kept it, they didn’t cancel it. 

MB: They got rid of it, the governor took it away. We are proposing that at least for recertification where we know the patient – there is no reason, you know, we just wanted to be on par with things like Benzodiazepines – 

CP: The way we already treat other medicine, Dr. Bone, like why are we making all these different rules for cannabis, which is safer and really you can grow it yourself so even if you put all of these restrictions on it, patients are still going to find a way to get it from the grey markets and so I think that we are just creating a mess and that brings me to really what I wanted you to get to, what about THC limits? How’s your prescribing model working?

MB: Limits are very interesting because they had a five-hour hearing in Tallahassee on limits that really are kind of out of control but essentially and we were talking about this summer, Marijuana Justice call the other night what is the average amount most people will use in the medical market, it’s going to be literally probably under 50 milligrams of THC a day. However, if a dispensary has a sale and the patient wants to stock up or if they need more, so most doctors will somehow go between 100 and 300 milligrams a day per consumption. 

You can do edible, oral, sublingual, topical, inhalation and flower works completely separately because you have to have a separate consent to do it, flower’s ounces – 

CP: You get flower in Florida, you have a different thing and see, this is over-regulation at its finest in my humble opinion and I think what we are creating is – for the listeners who don’t know, Dr. Bone gets to say how many milligrams of THC her patient gets in a month or in a – 

MB: We do per day, seven zero days at a time.

CP: Okay, so 70.

MB: 70 because that’s how they got to 210. You do three 70-day orders.

CP: Wow, they made up the whole rules. This is nothing but similar to other pharmaceuticals but I am worried that it’s over-regulating and not actually producing anything for patients and I am curious where you want to see this go, so I have my opinion and I think the podcast listeners if they don’t it yet they will. How should this medical cannabis look like in the future and then how does what Florida is currently doing look in a model where recreational has been legalized or adult use has been legalized? 

What does Florida do then? You’re going to limit THC on medical patients when we open up, yeah? 

MB: They’re actually in this coming up legislative session, they are starting to do some thinking work and their going to make recreational limits be a percentage of medical limits is what I think they’re going for and none of it is written in stone and I don’t really know much more about it than that but the thing we all agree on as medical doctors in this space is patients will limit their selves based on cost and amount they want to consume. 

I think the government is very concerned about diversion, where about buy and sell or cannabis use disorder but I can say having practiced since 2016 that I don’t really see that happen the way the government thinks it’s going to happen. Are there people with cannabis use disorder? Of course and do we see that immediately pretty easily and talk to the patient and counsel the patient? Yes but I don’t see a lot of what I would call diversion. I don’t see a lot of people buying cannabis and selling it to other people or giving it. It’s a little too expensive to do it that way. 

CP: Yeah, you are not going to pay taxes on something and then go sell it into the legal market again, the profit margin isn’t there. The gray market is already filling that at a much lower price point and that’s what I think is part of the problem is if we try to put all of these limitations and regulations on this THC market, you’re just going to have a booming – you know, elicit market or adult-use market depending on what each state decides or the feds do. 

I worry that that’s just over-regulation, it’s not serving patients but I did want to bring one more thing out because I think the way Florida has made this very medical is beneficial because we really need to find a way to help patients afford their medicine instead of telling them they need to buy cash whatever Chemovar is available at any given day. Any product that you might have to swap out brands, this is not the way medicine works. 

In some ways, I’d like to see Florida’s real treatment of this more like medicine to be played out but I just don’t think the trick is THC limits. 

MB: I happen to agree with you and it’s one of the reasons why I do a lot with ratio products because I think ratio products are much more medicinal. What I say to people, if you are going to say this strain is my medicine, the problem with that is next month they may not have that strain next year, the strain may not grow well at all and what are you going to do? Then you are hustling to look for something that takes its place. 

If you can get a ratio product and one of the first players in the space in Florida was a company that’s now called Parallel but it was initially called Surterra Wellness. 

CP: I know who they are. 

MB: That was their whole argument from the get-go. We have these ratio products and they do, they have the largest selection of ratio products on the market and it makes it pretty easy to help people titrate because you can say, “You start at this” which is a 12 of CBD to one of THC, where psychoactivity is not going to put into the model. I tell patients it’s kind of like glorified CBD but it’s a great way to put your toe in the water. 

Then one of my favorite products for patients of all varieties, five to one, five of CBD to one of THC for people who don’t want to be feeling high but want to be calmed down. I think it works very well for ADD ADHD patients in particular and two varieties of one-to-one so that they have one that’s got terpenes like limonene and pinene for a day time and then they have, yeah, more myrcene in there. 

It can be day or night and then they progress on up to a one to nine, which is for the people who want to use high THC works very well and I haven’t found big users say to me, “It wasn’t strong enough.” I haven’t seen that happen. 

CP: I love it, the conversation, we could just keep going on about this but there’s this really recent study that looked at ratios of THC and CBD, so same dose of THC with CBD on board and drastically different psychoactivity when you have CBD. The same dose with CBD next to it changes the whole perception and that’s why I think those ratioed products are so beneficial and it helps us keep our THC dose a little bit lower. It turns out that actually tends to work pretty good those micro-doses like we talked about earlier. 

MB: I agree, we’re on the same page. 

CP: I know, I knew that. 

MB: Where do you practice this? 

CP: I knew this when I listened during my podcast prep work but can you just briefly tell our listeners where they should check you out and certainly listeners, we’ll make sure all of these are in the show notes. 

MB: Certainly, I work at West Palm Beach, Florida and I have a private practice, Dr. Melanie Bone and we have a website, drmelaniebone.com.

CP: That’s hard. 

MB: Yeah, I also work for MorseLife Health System, which is the only five-star teaching nursing home that has gotten some special dispensations from the state to study cannabis – 

CP: In geriatrics is beautiful, it’s such an important patient population. 

MB: Yeah and I am also a medical officer to High There, which is a social platform talking about cannabis, so I have a lot of different hats I wear but I think my favorite one still is being a mom to five children and wife. 

CP: Beautiful. Well, I really appreciate your time here today and good luck on everything you’re doing and I have a feeling we’re going to cross paths again. 

MB: I think so too Codi, thank you. 

CP: I look forward to it. 

MB: Bye. 

CP: All right, thanks though. 


CP: Hi, I’m Dr. Codi Peterson and I am here with Heather Despres from Americans for Safe Access. Hi Heather. 

HD: Hey Codi. 

CP: Thanks for joining us on our quick little diddy at the end of the podcast. We’re just really excited to highlight all the great work that you’re doing at Americans for Safe Access. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about what you do at ASA and then we’ll get into why that matters? 

HD: Sure, I ran the PFC program at Americans for Safe Access. It is the compliance and training side of ASA’s offerings to the industry and so the PFC program, offers compliance courses, educational courses and then we also have a business certification side of things, and our business certification side of things is currently the only ISO 17065 accredited compliance program in the cannabis space right now. 

CP: ISO what? ISO 176 – can you, what? 

HD: It’s ISO 17065 and it is for certifying bodies for products, processes, and services, which is basically a big fancy way of saying that our audit program has been audited by professional auditors to make sure that we are assessing businesses in a manner that is kind of helped them become compliant with regulations.

CP: Okay, this is good though, I’ve heard this. Who is auditing the auditors and you are telling me that that is happening. The auditing of the auditors is – I’m going to look into this, maybe we need an audit special team. Anyway, the point is, is you’re working with companies to make sure that they are complying with regulations and those compliance regulations are set to help patients and consumers make sure that they’re getting clean, tested, and safe cannabis products. 

Is that kind of a gist? I know that what you’re doing on – you know, you are training companies to do this. Is that correct or to make sure they comply?

HD: Yeah, so the PFC program was actually started because as you guys know, Americans for Safe Access’s mission is to really advance cannabis therapeutics for use and research and we want to make sure that any patients that are getting this medicine and consumers on the adult-use market know that the products that they’re getting have undergone some sort of compliance inspection whether that’s safety testing, that the business that is manufacturing them or cultivating them is operating in a healthy and safe way that isn’t going to adulterate or bring contamination into the products. 

We provide compliance audits to businesses and ASA of course was founded to make sure that you know, patients have safe access to medicine, it’s right there in the name. On the PFC program, is a way to help patients and consumers kind of find an identifying mark and label to say, “Oh, this business is PFC-certified. Hey, their products, they’ve been audited, they’ve been reviewed, we know that they’re making sure that this business is compliant that employees are safe, that consumers are safe, and that we’re not putting adulterated products or contaminated products into the market.”

CP: Okay, so you are actually certifying that the manufacturers are following a certain standard, and then you are giving a stamp out, right? Consumers can look at the bottle and say, “Ah, I have a PFC stamp, this is to be trusted.”

HD: Yep and we certify all areas of the industry, so we do cultivation, manufacturing, dispensary, and laboratory operations because we want to make sure that all of the products from the entire supply chain have undergone some level of a review and assessment to make sure that they are operating according to the PFC standard.

CP: Ah, looking out for patients and consumers I see again ASA, that’s great. I’m glad to hear that consumers need tools to judge a product. You know, one of the things that I hear most is, “Is this product good for my loved ones or from a patient. Hey, is this one good?” and at least it sounds like PFC is giving us some sort of tools for patients and consumers and even health care professionals to lean on. I think that that is incredibly important work because right now there isn’t a lot of tools out there.

HD: There aren’t and it’s kind of challenging because you know right now, the PFC program is a voluntary compliance program and so it’s very hard to get businesses to voluntarily want to get assessed but it is a very important tool in your production practices to make sure that you have some sort of external oversight of your operation in the same way that we have external oversight by getting audited regularly through ISO and through additional external audits that we get done.

CP: Sure and I am audited and you know, I guess checked, certified by multiple organizations in the hospital as well and we serve patients with medicine, again, a very similar task. I can’t wait to hear more about what ASA is doing and dive a little bit deeper into what sort of tests PFC might be doing to validate the safety of these products. Thank you so much Heather for joining us today and I hope everyone has a lovely week.

HD: Thanks and thank you for having me on here.

CP: See you next time. 

EG: I’m Elana Goldberg. This episode of The Cannabis Enigma Podcast was executive produced by myself with production assistance from Dr. Codi Peterson and Ed Vaisman and edited by our friends at We Edit Podcasts. If you enjoyed the episode, feel free to like, rate and share. It helps other people find the podcast and it’s really nice for us as well.

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