Cannabis has solidified its roles in our lives, allowing our medical treatments and wellness journeys to take a delicious turn.
Directed & Edited By: Tamara Boxx for LUXYMOM® | Photography: Tim Gibbons Photography | 1st Camera Assistant and Videography: Ursula Gibbons | Model: Kloie E. Whitman
Somewhere nearer to you than you may think, there’s a mom who cries herself to sleep each night, buried under the weight of caring for her cancer-stricken child.
Somewhere possibly even closer, your own parent may be dealing with the silent, often unbearable, and even crippling side effects of aging.
And looking directly into your own heart and soul, you might be dealing with your own anxieties; the stresses of life and parenting, or even your own physical or mental health ailments.
The common denominators in these situations are that:
- We generally love our children and our parents more than life itself;
- We’d do anything to help them in any way we can; and
- We must take care of ourselves along the way.
For the extent of humanity, we’ve been going to our doctors, and they’ve been prescribing pills that make us better. Thank God for that.
But as we all know, and as is visible on every single drug ad and commercial known to man, there are side effects that come along with taking those pills. Sometimes the side affects are addiction, and sometimes the side effects are lethal.
It’s no secret that the medical cannabis industry has exploded in this country and around the world in recent years.
But what is relatively new in the evolution of this industry is the trajectory of marijuana’s use as a wellness product among all consumers – whether healthy, or whether ill and looking to augment their traditional therapies and treatments with a more natural and non-addictive option.
I sat down with my very dear friend Joe Caltabiano – a pioneer in the medical marijuana industry – to talk about some of the intricacies of cannabis and how it’s being used as both a medical treatment as well as part of people’s wellness journeys in their quest for health, happiness, and a life free from mental anguish and physical pain.
Joe is himself a childhood Leukemia survivor; a Make A Wish recipient; a Chicago Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man of the Year award-winner; an all-around business and philanthropic badass; and a devoted husband, father, and friend with a DNA built on generosity and a heart of gold.
He’s the original Ideator and Co-Founder of CRESCO Labs, a publicly traded cannabis and medical marijuana company based in Chicago and operating in nine states, and which maintains a current market cap of $4.89 Billion. And he’s now the CEO of Choice Consolidation Corp, a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (“SPAC”) targeting acquisitions of cannabis businesses.
I’ve talked with Joe many times over the years about cannabis and his involvement in the industry, but I wanted to dig deeper into its current uses…
I wondered, can we have our cake and eat it, too?
Can we live life in a healthy way, and what are the options for people who either want to augment their medical treatments, or incorporate marijuana into their wellness journeys?
“When I was sick, the doctors had very little compassion towards side effects and they were telling you things like, if you’re getting sick, it’s because the medicine’s working,” Joe told me.
Can you imagine what his parents felt, watching their son endure treatments that made him sick in other ways, on top of the cancer he was fighting? The truth is that, while effective, chemo and radiation most notably produce side effects like tiredness, hair loss, infections, anemia, memory loss, sleeplessness, infertility, lymphedema, kidney problems, and even secondary cancers.
But healthcare professionals’ mentalities have changed radically over the years. “What you recognize is people are very focused on their wellness journey today,” Joe said. “They place more importance on all the other things that may be therapeutic to them, like yoga, and breathing, and rest, and eating right.”
“They want to take less pills, they want to be more in control of their overall wellness, and that comes again with eating right, and sleeping right. So you need things to help you do that. And cannabis can help you alleviate a lot of aches and pains, and it helps people sleep better, and it helps people who don’t have an appetite have an appetite, or in some instances there is appetite suppression.
“So you’re seeing people extrapolate out the wellness that they want from cannabis and creating their own journey, whether they take it in the daytime or the nighttime – or how they take it – whether they ingest it in an edible format or through a vaporized format – both yielding different results.”
So with marijuana now being used for both medical and adult wellness uses, it seems you actually CAN have your cake and eat it, too.
“Just like when you walk into Walgreens, most of the things sold there are of a wellness nature, more so than they are truly medical. Certainly you go there to get your prescription, but they generate a lot of other revenue from the Tylenols and the sleep aids and all of the other things that are designed for overall wellness – not pharmaceutical,” Joe noted.
This really had me thinking about cannabis in a new light. For so many years, cannabis was demonized, and that is still being overcome by operators in the space.
But Joe has seen a funny thing happen throughout his own cancer follow-ups. He’s noticed the conversation between doctor and patient shifting, from one of ignorance to one of acceptance and even promotion.
“I do a bunch of long-term cancer follow-ups, so I go in annually to meet with my doctors, and I would always ask them, “what do you think about cannabis… and it started out as, “ah, you know what, I don’t think it has any value”…. To every year them saying “25% of our waiting room is utilizing cannabis… 50% of our waiting room is utilizing cannabis”…
“And now nurses and doctors are recommending it. Now you see doctors acknowledging and actually encouraging people to use it – to help them sleep, to help them eat, help them rest, help them relax.”
So let’s talk about the very obvious. If you’re reading this article in our publication, there’s a high probability you’re also a parent. And you may be wondering about how cannabis is going to play out in the lives of your children… How should you talk to your kids about cannabis? How should you describe its uses, and do this in a responsible way? And can you do this while having your own cake from time to time?
“I’m a big believer in educating – in talking to your children, rather than pretending you’re not going to see it or come across it. Just like alcohol,” Joe told me.
“It’s become socially acceptable for a parent to come home and have a drink at the end of the day to unwind – whether it’s a glass of scotch or a glass of wine… Kids see that and parents should address some of those things in the same vein as addressing something like cannabis.”
Our reality today is not as it was 30 years ago, when I was approaching middle school. Our kids are going to be exposed to cannabis more openly than our generation was.
According to Joe, as the medical community continues to embrace and recommend medical marijuana as an addition to medical treatments, and as our society surpasses a 90% support rate for medical cannabis use, we will see the conversation normalized.
“You’re going to have kids unfortunately have classmates who have cancer or who have epilepsy, and may utilize medical cannabis,” Joe said. “This ultimately gives parents a good start to educate their children, that that child shouldn’t be ostracized for using a medicine – or that the parents shouldn’t be ostracized from using a medicine that in their opinion and their medical provider’s opinion is the best course of action for their child.”
There are so many medical uses for marijuana, in the care of cancer and epilepsy in children, all the way to anxiety in those facing terminal illness.
So what about any level of addictiveness?
Is this something we should worry about? Do the old thought processes of marijuana as a gateway drug still apply today? And how do we address this with our kids?
To start by addressing it with kids, is to talk about it again in much the same manner as we would with alcohol consumption. “As a society, especially as this becomes legal for adult consumption, (kids are) going to see more people consuming it. And there are laws in place for the betterment of them as small people, but also as a society. So it’s a 21 and over product, and there are repercussions for utilizing anything that you’re not allowed to,” Joe advised.
On the bright side, according to Joe, there is generally “a 25% reduction in opioid deaths in states that have a medical cannabis program. To date, there has never been an overdose as it relates to cannabis,” he said.
“Different drugs interact with your body in different ways, and some, unfortunately – like opiates – rewire your brain and make everybody addicted – whether it’s the first time or the 100th time. Everybody has a different tolerance level.
“But cannabis is not deemed to be an addictive substance by the overwhelming majority of educated professionals out there, as it doesn’t interact with your brain the same way that some opiates or heroin really rewire your need for them.”
And Joe agrees there needs to be more research conducted at higher education institutions so the evidence becomes less anecdotal and more clinical.
“I’m seeing the overwhelming majority of hospitals start to engage in the conversation. You’re seeing participation on a world level, certainly with Canada and now Mexico exploring adult use – and then Europe and Israel and a lot of other markets putting a lot of effort into the research side. Now you’re even seeing states like Pennsylvania, where they have research licenses – where the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State and a lot of the hospitals can participate in studies, where you couldn’t before,” he said.
Education is the way forward to progress. But on a personal note, there has been real evidence on more personal levels that what he’s doing in the cannabis space is providing real benefits to real people.
“It’s important to look at things from a patient or a customer focus all the time,” Joe said. “But nothing brings that back into light like being in one of your dispensaries or operations and having someone come up to you and say… I no longer need a walker, because I would have such shooting pains that I couldn’t walk without a cane, and now my pain levels are down so much that I don’t need a cane… Improving somebody’s mobility is a phenomenal thing.
“And as a personal story, my kids went to a small preschool, and this was 2015, so to flash-back six years ago, cannabis wasn’t as accepted as it is today, and it wasn’t like I talked about it that much, about being in the industry,” Joe said.
“And the Headmaster of the school came up to me – she was an older woman – and she said, “I know what you do for a living… and you’ve changed my husband’s life.” What I thought was going to be this negative reaction, I was thinking “oh no, are my kids getting kicked out of school,” instead it was this incredibly positive response, that then it was an epiphany for me to be much more vocal about what I was doing and to be a part of it.”
The most rewarding thing for Joe – and for any of us as parents – is to see a child’s life improved. “As kids have less seizures, as parents give credit to cannabis for helping improve a child’s life, regardless of the condition – that warms your heart, because you’re improving somebody’s life for the better,” Joe said.
We’ve developed a multitude of uses for cannabis over a very short time… and while traditional Western medicine will continue to grow and prosper and improve our lives, we now know that the cannabis industry will grow right alongside it.
It’s solidified a place in society and in the healthcare world as a viable addition to traditional treatments and in an adult-use capacity for those who want to incorporate it into their wellness journeys.
That mom who helps her child fight cancer… she has an additional ally in cannabis. Your parent, who internally fights a daily battle with the aches and pains and heartaches of being on this planet for 70 years… he or she has an ally in cannabis. And you, yourself, as you battle your own stressors and ailments… you, too, have an ally in cannabis.
Let them all eat cake.