Two lightbulb moments led the two keynote speakers at the upcoming Santa Barbara Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo into their respective fields.
Dr. Uwe Blesching, a researcher studying how marijuana can treat chronic pain and break patients’ dependence on opioids, was inspired when he was a San Francisco paramedic in the mid-1990s. He helped revive an attorney who had overdosed on heroin and later confided he’d been shooting up for years to cope with his mental-health issues and had also used cannabis to curb his pain.
For Dr. Joe Goldstrich, a go-to consulting physician for oncologists looking to augment their cancer treatments with cannabis, the bulb flickered at a Denver medical conference in 2014. A presenter displayed the brain stems of two patients who had used only cannabis to treat their brain cancer. In both cases, their tumors shrank dramatically.
Eight other experts will join Blesching and Goldstrich for the full-day event on May 11. The focus is the hard science behind the use of cannabis and CBD to treat debilitating medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and depression. “The purpose of this conference is to bring the latest studies done on this miraculous plant to treat all kinds of ailments,” said co-organizer Jaqueline Lopez. There will be presentations and Q&As, as well as giveaways and workshops on how to grow, cook, and administer your own medicine.
Goldstrich said he’s particularly excited to talk about recent findings out of Israel, a global leader in cannabis research. He’ll also talk about the benefits of incorporating raw cannabinoids into cancer treatments and the upsides of ingesting raw parts of the plant, “as easily as throwing a flower or two into your smoothie,” he explained.
Not long ago, the majority of America’s cancer doctors scoffed at marijuana’s medicinal value. Nowadays, the naysayers are in the minority. Goldstrich advises which chemotherapies will be complemented by cannabis, and which can be blocked by it. And while he’s encouraged by all the new studies coming out of Israel and other countries, he’s angered by the hard stop the U.S. has put on most research. “The biggest problem patients have is cannabis being illegal in their state,” he said. “People struggle to save their lives in this absurd society we live in.”
In his talk, Dr. Blesching will focus on how cannabis can replace or be co-administered with opioids to treat chronic pain. His recently published book, Breaking the Cycle of Opioid Addiction, highlights the number of overdose deaths occurring in the U.S. every year ― more than 70,000 last year ― and gives guidance on finding the right balance of THC and CBD to manage an individual’s particular type of pain.
Blesching’s book, though geared towards physicians and nurses, is also accessible to the average person. “The last thing you want to do when you’re dealing with chronic pain is spend three months learning medical terminology,” he said. “I want this to help everyone.”
One of the most striking figures Blesching has come across in his research shows that the states that have legalized marijuana report 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths. Extrapolated out, that means if the entire country legalized cannabis, 17,000 people a year could be saved. The capacity of UCSB’s Harder Stadium is exactly 17,000, Blesching pointed that. “Picture that,” he said. “That’s what we’re talking about here.”
4•1•1 | The Santa Barbara Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo takes place Saturday, May 11, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Building (112 Cabrillo Blvd.). For tickets and information, visit cannabismedconference.org.