Alex Spier was a World War II veteran and a hero. After fighting against the Nazi regime with the Dutch Underground and surviving 3 years in concentration camps—including Auschwitz—he emigrated to Massachusetts to start a family. He began his new life in America as a watchmaker and eventually built a multimillion-dollar empire in realty and development. In 2017, after battling with Alzheimer’s for years, Alex died of complications from the disease.
Throughout his journey, the Spier family tried several traditional treatments, including aggressive antipsychotic and anti-seizure medications. None of it seemed to help, and some of it even made things worse.
In a last effort to help his father cope with the disease, Greg Spier decided to try treating his father’s symptoms with medical marijuana. In the last three months of his life, medical marijuana administered through granola bars finally allowed his father to rest. It was “the only thing that seemed to give him any reprieve,” says Greg Spier.
Alex’s story is not unlike many others. Today, a startling 50 million people in the world have dementia, and the numbers only continue to rise. Of those numbers, nearly 75% of patients have Alzheimer’s, while related diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s make up the rest.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) include trouble remembering recent events, mood swings and erratic behavior, impaired judgment, hallucinations, and, in later stages, difficulty swallowing, speaking, or walking. As the disease progresses, people with AD lose the ability to care for themselves. They can become delusional, paranoid, and aggressive—sometimes to the point of getting kicked out of assisted living facilities.
Bottom line, it’s miserable for everyone involved.
The causes of AD are not well understood. The Alzheimer’s Association lists several risk factors, including age and genetics, but the research is inconclusive. The medical community believes that changes within a person’s brain may be responsible, but whether nerve cell damage and death is the cause or just an effect of AD remains unclear.
With so much mystery surrounding the disease, there is currently no effective treatment that can stop or slow its progression. However, as in Alex’s case, there seem to be some promising possibilities with medical marijuana.
In one study, scientists were able to reduce brain inflammation in lab mice with cannabidiol (CBD). The study also showed CBD’s potential in reversing and preventing the cognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. And while we know that regular marijuana use can actually impair memory in young people, another study has shown it may have the opposite effect on patients with AD using it for the first time.
The therapeutic use of medical marijuana in treating AD also showed promise in research involving human subjects. One pilot study showed an improvement in the behavioral symptoms of ten patients through the use of THC/CBD oil, which led half of them to reduce or eliminate other medications.
With so much research, there is still hope for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s still unclear what role medical marijuana will play in the long-term fight against AD, but we do know, through stories like Alex’s, that it can help bring much-needed relief for patients struggling with the disease today.
The Spier Family Foundation was founded by Alex Spier to aid families and advance medical research related to Alzheimer’s. Today, the foundation supports Harvard’s McLean Psychiatric Hospital in its efforts to research the effects of medical marijuana on AD.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month. This month, Calypso encourages you to learn more about the disease and find out about the ways you can help by visiting alz.org and worldalzmonth.org.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently one of over twenty qualifying conditions in Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program, classified under neurodegenerative diseases. As with any of the approved conditions, please consult with a medical professional before treating Alzheimer’s or any related neurodegenerative disease with medical marijuana.
The Barber Beast on the Bay is a ten-mile obstacle course race and one of Erie’s most highly anticipated fundraisers. Every summer, people rally to the shores of Lake Erie to raise money for the Barber National Institute, a nonprofit that provides behavioral health and intellectual disabilities services to children and adults in Pennsylvania.
Competitors run, jump, climb, and crawl through more than 30 obstacles set up along Presque Isle State Park in support of the individuals who face their own obstacles every day. An adapted, one-mile course is also available for those ages 12 and up with disabilities.
On Saturday, nearly 1,500 participants gathered bright and early to compete, cheer, and volunteer at Barber Beast on the Bay. Among the integral group of volunteers that day was Team Calypso.
We arrived at 6:30 a.m. to check in and meet with our volunteer captain, who tasked us with directing the flow of traffic in the parking lots of the event. Because we were the first point of contact for people, we also helped guide them to where they needed to be. We received warm smiles and thanks from Beast-goers acknowledging our volunteer efforts.
Throughout the day, we watched as groups clad in team colors and T-shirts convened and made their way to registration. EMTA shuttles came in waves all morning, dropping teams off at the start of the 10-mile Beast and returning to the parking lot to pick up more. In the distance, we could see and hear participants from both courses crossing the finish line together.
The adrenaline and team spirit in the air was palpable. It was energizing to see the eager and smiling faces of every competitor, supporter, and volunteer. It was inspiring to witness people overcome strenuous challenges and terrains in support of such a great cause.
Volunteering at the Barber Beast on the Bay was an opportunity for us to connect with others working toward a common goal. We are proud to serve our community. At the end of each day, our mission is to make a difference in the lives of people around us through compassion, innovation, and excellence.
To learn more about the ways Calypso is helping to make a positive impact, click here.
In 2014, Colorado was the first state to legalize adult-use or recreational marijuana. Before legislation was even passed, people began flocking to the state with anticipation and a desire to experience the benefits of “fully legal” marijuana.
This significant migration pattern was captured in a 2018 study.
Researchers found that between 2005 and 2009, an average of 187,600 people moved to Colorado each year to access medical marijuana. Between 2010 and 2013, these numbers increased by 20,760 per year—an 11% increase. When marijuana became fully legal in 2014, the number of people who moved to Colorado increased by an additional 8.2%. Based on this data, researchers concluded marijuana legalization had increased Colorado’s total population by 3.2%.
Marijuana migration continues to be relevant today, particularly for individuals and families seeking marijuana for medical purposes. And although a number of states have adopted medical marijuana programs, their qualifying conditions, methods of consumption, and other treatment factors vary and may not be suitable for everyone.
Individuals or families that do choose to relocate are often referred to as “medical refugees.” American Medical Refugees (AMR)—a Colorado-based support group—defines medical refugees as “persons who relocated from their preferred area of living, residence, or community, in order to avoid persecution and prosecution for medicinal cannabis treatment.”
With relocation, many medical refugees sacrifice their livelihoods, their social support networks (including family and friends), and their belongings. For most, however, these disruptions are worth it if it means access to medical relief—and an improved quality of life.
Here are two of their stories.
Treatment for autism and Dravet syndrome
When Autumn was three months old, she was diagnosed with severe autism and Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome is a severe type of childhood epilepsy that caused Autumn to have multiple, prolonged seizures—sometimes lasting up to four hours.
In 2018, Christine Gordon moved from Kansas to Colorado to get medical marijuana for her daughter, Autumn. This move, in her own words, saved her daughter’s life.
During a seizure, Autumn often required several doses of rescue medications that caused her to go into respiratory and cardiac arrest. She spent a majority of her life intubated and admitted in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Within a few weeks of living in Colorado, Autumn received her medical marijuana card. And in less than six months of treatment, Autumn’s cognition, language, and overall health steadily improved. She was even able to stop seizure activity in under three minutes and reduce her dependence on pharmaceutical drugs. With less side effects than pharmaceuticals, Autumn is now able to be her authentic self.
Treatment for cerebral palsy and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Jacqueline Patterson was born with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect a person’s movement, balance, and posture. Because there are multiple types of cerebral palsy, symptoms vary and depend on the location of the affected muscle groups.
For Jacqueline, the muscles on the right side of her body are noticeably weaker and less developed than on her left side. She also has a severe stutter and experiences constant speech spasms.
Jacqueline claims medical marijuana helps her numb the chronic pain caused by her condition, as well as improve her speech. When she consumes medical marijuana, she feels more relaxed, her thoughts are less rushed, and she is able to get her words out more easily.
Today, Jacqueline is a medical marijuana advocate and activist, establishing nonprofits to help people with disabilities access medical marijuana and other supportive resources.
These stories and countless others like them resonate with us at Calypso. When you read our story, you’ll learn that our founder, Samuel P. “Pat” Black, III, was compelled to spearhead the development of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania after a family member sought treatment outside of the state—this of course, during a time when medical marijuana was illegal in the Commonwealth.
Fast forward to today, and the medical marijuana industry is booming in Pennsylvania. Residents with one or more qualifying conditions are able to access treatment and experience relief in many ways. Those who may have left Pennsylvania previously are now able to return. However, as long as there are states that have not legalized marijuana for medical use, the migration of medical refugees will continue.
 Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act and, as such, continues to be illegal at the federal level.
When it comes to selecting your medical marijuana products, some of the first questions you might ask yourself are regarding a strain’s type and cannabinoid profile. Is it an indica, sativa, or hybrid? Does it contain THC? CBD? Maybe a combination of the two? While these are important initial considerations, you may be able to refine your search by understanding a product’s terpene content. So, what are terpenes, and why do they matter anyway?
Terpenes are the organic compounds that give marijuana and other plants their unique aromas and flavors. In marijuana these aromas can range from, most notably, musky or earthy to sweet or even floral. Linalool, for instance, is the terpene responsible for lavender’s distinct scent and is one of the hundreds of terpenes also found in marijuana. At Calypso, we test our products for terpene content. But scent profiles are also sometimes reflected in strain names like Sour Diesel or Cheesewreck, for example. (And yes, Cheesewreck does smell like cheese.)
The strong odor and bitter taste produced by the terpenes in marijuana serve an evolutionary function. These properties work together to repel insects and other natural predators, allowing marijuana to survive and reproduce. In addition to protection from external factors, terpenes are thought to play a role in the plant’s immunity. They are the main ingredient in essential oils, which have long been used for medicinal purposes. So, the question is: do terpenes offer therapeutic benefits to humans? The research is showing promise.
In one 1995 study, limonene was tested for its efficacy on immune function and depression and was shown to reduce or even eliminate the need for antidepressants. Marijuana strains containing limonene are therefore thought to elevate our mood. In another study, terpinolene extracted from rosemary and sage was shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Further research on the benefits of marijuana is needed, but it looks like terpenes, just like cannabinoids, may have some medical value after all.
What makes terpenes particularly interesting is that they appear to work in synergy with other marijuana compounds. In what’s known as “the entourage effect,” terpenes demonstrate the potential to enhance or mitigate the effects of other terpenes and cannabinoids. And while terpenes may offer benefits of their own, one article states that “the activity of many terpenoids may be cumulative: unfractionated cannabis essential oil exhibits greater anti-inflammatory activity than its individual constituents,” for example.
Curious to know more? Read about some of the terpenes most commonly found in marijuana and their potential benefits below.
Myrcene is one of marijuana’s most prominent terpenes. Anecdotal research shows that myrcene may work synergistically with THC to enhance or extend the effects of marijuana. Myrcene is also the terpene thought to induce a “couch lock,” or sedative effect, although there’s no substantial evidence to support this.
Caryophyllene is another terpene abundantly found in marijuana. Most people have likely encountered this terpene in the form of spices used for cooking. But caryophyllene has been the subject of many studies and may be a powerhouse in the world of medical marijuana.
Scent profile: Spicy, cloves, hops, earthy Also found in: Black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, hops Potential benefits: Anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant; stress and pain relief; treatment for Parkinson’s and opioid use disorder
Pinene is the most common terpene found in nature. As a bronchodilator, it can help improve air flow to the lungs. It can also be used to counteract memory loss associated with THC. Pinene is responsible for a strain’s “piney” aroma.
Scent profile: Pine Also found in: Pine needles, dill, parsley, rosemary, basil Potential benefits:Anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antibiotic; treatment for depression, anxiety, and chronic pain
Limonene is what gives marijuana its “citrusy” scent. This terpene is often used in fragrances, cosmetics, and cleaning products. In medical marijuana, limonene can be used as a mood-enhancer and to boost the immune system.
Linalool is often derived from flowers and spices, but it is naturally-occurring in marijuana as well. A study conducted on the effects of linalool on rats indicates that this terpene may be used to relieve stress. Linalool has potential sedative and mood-enhancing effects.
Ocimene’s herbal, woodsy aroma is often used in household products like fragrances, antiperspirants, and hard-surface cleaners. From a medical standpoint, ocimene could be a worthy opponent to foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria.
Scent profile: Woodsy, herbal, sweet Also found in: Basil, mint, parsley, tarragon, kumquats, mangoes Potential benefits:Antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory
As one of the primary components in tea tree oil, terpinolene may be used as an anti-fungal agent. Terpinolene is another terpene known for its sedative effects, but it may also be used to treat oxidative damage and inflammation caused by cancer.
Scent profile: Sweet, floral, herbal, woodsy Also found in: Lilacs, apples, conifers, tea tree, nutmeg, and cumin Potential benefits: Anti-cancer, antioxidant, antibacterial; treatment for insomnia
Named after the hop plant (Humulus lupulus), humulene is also commonly found in marijuana. Further research on humulene is needed, but this terpene could have anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties.
Scent profile: Hops, earthy Also found in: Hops, sage, coriander, cloves, ginseng Potential benefits:Anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antibacterial; appetite suppressant
While browsing marijuana strains or purchasing medical marijuana from a dispensary, it’s common to see strains divided into three categories: indica, sativa, and hybrid.
Indica and sativa are two primary species of the marijuana plant, and cross pollination of these two species breeds hybrids. These general categories reflect the widely understood classifications of marijuana and have been used to distinguish the experiences associated with particular strains. However, there are much more important differences to consider.
With this in mind, these are the key distinctions largely accepted by marijuana connoisseurs:
Plants have shorter flowering cycles (6 to 8 weeks) and are able to thrive in colder climates native to the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Turkey
Plants are short in stature (2 to 6 feet) with wide, broad leaves and dense, plump buds
Strains often have higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
Strains are commonly associated with relaxing and calming effects, while providing mainly a “body high”
Strains are usually consumed at night due to their sedating effects
Plants have longer flowering cycles (10 to 16 weeks) and are able to thrive in warmer climates native to the tropical regions of Africa, Central America, and portions of West and Southeast Asia
Plants are tall in stature (8 to 15 feet) with long, thin leaves and airy, elongated buds
Strains often have higher levels of THC and less CBD
Strains are commonly associated with invigorating and energizing effects, while providing mainly a “mind high”
Strains are usually consumed during the day due to their stimulating effects
Hybrids are the result of crossbreeding indica and sativa plants and tend to be labeled as indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, or balanced. Hybrids are commonly grown to target specific effects, which are partly determined by the unique ratio of the two parent plants.
The three-category system used to predict marijuana effects is generally useful—especially for those new to the medical marijuana market. However, there is growing demand in the scientific community to abandon these categories and focus instead on a strain’s chemical composition to determine its potential effects.
Dr. Ethan Russo is a subject matter expert on the medicinal use of marijuana and currently resides as the Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI)—a collective of global stakeholders from academia and private industries, committed to advancing medical marijuana research.
The differences between indica and sativa are rooted in each plant’s physical traits and attributes. However, these differences do not serve as an accurate indicator for the effects experienced by a consumer. As Dr. Russo suggests, the combination of chemicals in a plant is the superior predictive factor. These chemicals, which include THC, CBD, and hundreds of other cannabinoids are what distinguish a particular marijuana strain and its medical benefits.
As you explore medical marijuana and determine the right product for you, be sure to also consider the following:
Your desired effects. What do you intend to feel or treat? This question will help you pinpoint potential options. Discuss your goals with a dispensary employee, who may have recommendations to best suit your needs.
Your tolerance. With a variety of marijuana strains comes a variety of potencies. For first-time users, a low-THC and high-CBD strain may be the most tolerable and provide a less overwhelming experience. Start with a low dose. And if you desire stronger effects, increase your dosage or try experimenting with THC-dominant strains.
Your medical history. As with any medicinal remedy, there are potential side effects involved with marijuana. Before treatment, consult your doctor or other healthcare professional to identify possible interactions with your existing medical conditions and medications.
Your preferred consumption method. There are different ways to consume medical marijuana. In Pennsylvania, patients have the option to deliver product orally, topically, or by inhalation through vaporization. Each technique has its benefits and drawbacks. If you choose to vape, for example, you may experience effects quicker than if you were to use a transdermal (i.e., topical) patch. For more information on consumption methods, check out Medical Marijuana Consumption Methods in Pennsylvania.
At Calypso, we are dedicated to helping patients make more informed decisions. With above industry-standard testing, we are able to record complete and accurate cannabinoid and terpene profiles for each of our strains. With comprehensive chemical profiles, we can better predict the effects our strains produce and ultimately provide patients a better experience.
Stay tuned for more as we near our product launch!
In an industry where new products appear on the market daily, choosing the medical marijuana consumption method to suit your needs can be overwhelming. After selecting a strain for its desired effects, the next step is to consider which delivery method might work best for you.
In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana patients can choose from three basic methods of consumption: inhalation (through vaporization), oral, and topical.
Vaporizers are growing in popularity among medical marijuana patients and health-conscious consumers. By using lower temperatures to heat marijuana, rather than burning it, vaporizers minimize exposure to the toxins associated with smoking. Additional research is needed to understand the health risks of vaporizing when compared to smoking. However, consumers in one study reported less respiratory symptoms with vaping.
Vaporizers come in an array of makes and models but generally have cartridges that take marijuana oil or dry leaf. Oils and other concentrates are relatively new developments that provide relief using less product. However, they may have higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels than dry leaf, so it’s a good idea to start small and work your way up to the desired effect.
Vaporization offers a level of discretion by producing less of an odor than smoking. The lower temperatures may also preserve the taste and produce stronger effects. When inhaling marijuana into the lungs, effects usually take place within minutes.
One simple way to get relief is by ingesting marijuana-infused products. In this process, cannabinoids are absorbed through the stomach and intestines. Because they undergo a chemical transformation during digestion, the effects caused by these products are often much stronger than any other consumption method.
Oils are concentrates that can be eaten, dispensed through a syringe and ingested, or taken in capsule-form. When orally ingesting any kind of marijuana product, it’s always a good idea to start with a low dose, be patient, and work your way up from there. It can take up to 2 hours to feel the effects, but they last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours—and sometimes longer!
There are also sublingual methods of delivery that completely bypass the digestive system. Tinctures are marijuana-infused liquids that are usually placed directly under the tongue using a dropper or spray, although they may also be ingested. When products are administered sublingually, or under the tongue, cannabinoids are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream via the large number of blood vessels in that area.
Dispensaries carry tinctures in a variety of dosages and cannabinoid profiles to suit your preferences and medical needs. Tinctures are an inconspicuous option that are odorless, offer better dosage control, and generally take effect within 15 to 60 minutes.
Topical products like lotions, balms, and salves can be applied to the skin for localized relief. Topicals are designed to treat pain, soreness, and inflammation, but they may also provide relief from things like skin conditions to itching. Topicals are non-intoxicating, which can make them great alternatives to products that are meant to be inhaled or ingested.
Because the cannabinoids in topicals don’t reach the bloodstream, they don’t produce the “high” feeling commonly associated with marijuana. Instead, cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and THC are absorbed into the skin, where they bind to a system of receptors located in and around the human body.
Onset time for topicals can range anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, so be sure to read the label for details.
Transdermal patches are unique in that their properties penetrate through the skin to enter the bloodstream. They offer low-profile relief when applied to venous areas like the arm, wrist, or ankle.
Patches come in a variety of cannabinoid profiles, including split ratios such as 1:1 CBN:THC—which has a sedative effect that may offer relief from insomnia. Patients can also opt for a simple, isolated cannabinoid like CBD to alleviate arthritic pain or inflammation, for instance.
Although onset of effects is generally up to two hours, advances in slow-release technology can make patches a great option for relief that lasts all day or all night.
At Calypso, we understand the world of medical marijuana can be an intimidating place, especially to new patients. But it doesn’t have to be. We hope this guide to Pennsylvania-approved consumption methods helps prepare you for your next dispensary visit so you can rediscover wellness.