(CNN) -- Aimee Curry recalls sitting on her couch one day, her back contorted, as spasms -- remnants of a car accident that almost killed her in 1992 -- rippled up and down her back.
A friend who had been visiting that day left, saying she would bring back some medication. "She came back with pot," said Curry, who says at first she was aghast.
"I was like, 'I can't smoke that, my daddy said no,'" said Curry, 39, whose father is an ordained minister. "'I can't do that, it's bad.'"
"But I was in so much pain, and they were promising me, 'Aimee, this will take the pain away.'"
Curry ignored the preaching voice in her head and tried the marijuana. Soon after she mastered the inhale, she says, her back muscles relaxed. Her pain did not melt away -- it still hurt when she finally got up from the couch -- but, Curry said, "I didn't care."
"It states in the Bible not to abuse a drug, it doesn't say you can't use it," said Curry. "If you ask me, cannabis is a gift from God."
While some in the religious community may take issue with Curry's interpretation of the Bible, the scientific foundation for cannabis as a medical treatment, especially as it relates to treating pain, is solid.
Pain is the most common condition for which medical cannabis is taken, and one of the few for which there is promising clinical data in humans.
According to doctors who prescribe cannabis for pain, the current wave of U.S. legalization is bringing an unintended side effect: a greatly-reduced need, and in some cases complete cessation, of opioid-based prescription medications.
Dr. Mark Rabe, a Northwestern University School of Medicine-trained physician who treats Curry, said he sees it among his own patients.
"Patients often come into my office and drop down a brown bag full of pill bottles on my desk and say, 'I'm off Oxycodone; I'm off muscle relaxants. I'm off Ambien; I'm off Trazodone,' because medical cannabis does the job better," said Rabe, who runs Centric Wellness in San Diego.
"Time after time these patients tell me that medical cannabis works better than the pills, and with fewer side effects."
Side effects of cannabis are well-known to both medical and recreational users -- dry mouth, red eyes and insatiable cravings -- while opioids' side effects can include nausea, constipation and an ironic hyper-sensitivity to pain.
A more stark contrast between the two: Since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of accidental overdose deaths associated with opioids (also called opiates) went up about 400%. Cannabis researchers say it is virtually impossible to overdose on cannabis.
"Cannabis has such a good safety profile and is much less addictive than opiates," said Rabe. "In my mind, cannabis is a good potential replacement for opiates."
Dr. Donald Abrams, a leading researcher on pain and cannabis, said that clinical data supports cannabis as a treatment for pain -- especially among cancer and HIV/AIDS patients with neuropathy, a painful condition involving nerve damage.
Anecdotally, he said he has encountered many patients who have used cannabis to either reduce their need for opioids or get rid of them altogether.
Abrams described a recent scenario involving a 58-year-old patient with diabetes suffering with neuropathic pain.
"She had already lost two toes and they told her in the ER not to use cannabis for her pain relief," said Abrams, chief of hematology and oncology at San Francisco General Hospital. "She said to me, 'When they give me pain meds they make me feel awful, and cannabis works.'"
It may work, but among pain physicians, receptiveness to cannabis as a viable therapy is muted, and complicated.
One such physician said that the debate is not about whether cannabis-based medications -- like Marinol, which is approved for use in patients by the Food and Drug Administration -- help with pain, especially among cancer patients.
They do, he said.
"I think that debate should be put to rest," said Dr. Jay Joshi, CEO and medical director of National Pain Centers, adding that overzealous proponents may be clouding the real issues surrounding cannabis. "I see the enthusiasm for marijuana kind of like the enthusiasm we had for opiates years ago.
"A few years down the road I think you're going to see problems from this liberalization of marijuana," he added. "We've seen these pendulums swing before and reality is somewhere in the middle."
Joshi said that, despite how it is framed, cannabis is not always safe.
Some of the hundreds of chemicals inhaled when cannabis is smoked, he said, are lipophilic -- they have an affinity for fat cells -- so that they stick to nerve and brain cells for months or years. That could prove problematic over the long-term, he said.
And, Joshi said, smoked marijuana introduces hundreds of chemicals to the body, some of which could prove harmful to the brain over time.
"I don't think (cannabis) is risk-free and there's no long-term potential side effects," said Joshi, who also is chief medical officer and director of Wellness Center USA. Those who tout that, he said, "are drinking a little too much of the Kool-Aid. No medication is risk-free."
The issue, say cannabis researchers, is relative risk. To bolster his case for cannabis Rabe cites patient safety data.
According to the FDA, in 2011, 98,518 patients died in association with drugs approved by the agency, while 573,111 had serious outcomes -- hospitalization, disability, or some other life-threatening situation.
"Nearly 100,000 die from FDA-monitored drugs," said Rabe. "If you look at those kind of numbers and then you hear about the properties of cannabinoids, it makes sense that there is increasing interest in something other than what pharmaceuticals have to offer."
What medicine offers in the distant future may reside somewhere between what doctors like Rabe and Abrams -- and Joshi -- are currently offering their patients.
A small study, authored by Abrams, published in 2011, found that taking cannabis in combination with opioids may enhance pain relief, reduce side effects of opioids and -- possibly most importantly -- reduce the dosage needed for both drugs.
More, and bigger, studies need to echo those results -- and cannabis needs to be rescheduled by the Drug Enforcement Agency -- before mainstream pain physicians get onboard.
Right now, it is a Schedule I drug -- what the DEA classifies as "drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
"If (cannabis) was rescheduled I think there are a lot of physicians, including myself, that would not only reconsider it but would probably prescribe it," said Joshi. "A lot of doctors are scared to prescribe something when the actual drug itself is Schedule I."
In the meantime, patients like Curry, who have become staunch proponents of medical cannabis, are confounded by the debate.
"I don't get why the government can recommend narcotics, your doctor can prescribe you Percocet or Oxycontin and you can literally die if you take too much," said Curry. "But if you smoke too much pot you'll just ... fall asleep."
She said that her father's voice alternates between a whisper and roar in her mind as she considers her future use of medicinal cannabis.
Today, she is leaning toward honoring her father. But when the pain comes, "God's gift" may override everything.
Editor's note: Don't miss "Weed 2: Cannabis Madness: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports," at 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Also, Dr. Gupta will be answering your questions on Reddit at noon ET Friday.
(CNN) -- It's been eight months since I last wrote about medical marijuana, apologizing for having not dug deeply into the beneficial effects of this plant and for writing articles dismissing its potential. I apologized for my own role in previously misleading people, and I feel very badly that people have suffered for too long, unable to obtain the legitimate medicine that may have helped them.
I have been reminded that a true and productive scientific journey involves a willingness to let go of established notions and get at the truth, even if it is uncomfortable and even it means having to say "sorry."
It is not easy to apologize and take your lumps, but this was never about me.
This scientific journey is about a growing number of patients who want the cannabis plant as a genuine medicine, not to get high.
It is about emerging science that not only shows and proves what marijuana can do for the body but provides better insights into the mechanisms of marijuana in the brain, helping us better understand a plant whose benefits have been documented for thousands of years. This journey is also about a Draconian system where politics override science and patients are caught in the middle.
Since our documentary "Weed" aired in August, I have continued to travel the world, investigating and asking tough questions about marijuana.
I have met with hundreds of patients, dozens of scientists and the curious majority who simply want a deeper understanding of this ancient plant. I have sat in labs and personally analyzed the molecules in marijuana that have such potential but are also a source of intense controversy. I have seen those molecules turned into medicine that has quelled epilepsy in a child and pain in a grown adult. I've seen it help a woman at the peak of her life to overcome the ravages of multiple sclerosis.
Dozens of marijuana plants await harvest at a production site for "Loaded Soda," an Olympia-based business that provides marijuana-infused sodas, vitamin waters and other products to more than 400 medical marijuana collectives throughout the state.
Owner Dave Kois stands in the middle of the three-foot plants, discussing the different strains of marijuana that he's growing, as well as his thoughts on efforts by the state to regulate the medical market that he currently caters to. Two bills working their way through the Legislature seek to reconcile the medical market with the new recreational market approved by voters in the fall of 2012.
Lawmakers in Olympia have worried that the largely unregulated medical system would undercut the taxed, recreational industry, and U.S. Justice Department officials have warned that the state's medical marijuana status quo is untenable.
"It's about money for the state," said Kois, who grows marijuana that has high levels of a compound known as CBD and is low in THC, the chemical that causes users to get high. "They see medical as a threat to their tax money on the recreational side. I understand that. But I think that the two should be regulated separately. They're two separate systems and they should stay that way."
The state has allowed medical use of marijuana since 1998. The hundreds of dispensaries that currently exist statewide are not regulated by the state, but loosely operate under current state law language on "collective gardens" that allows qualifying patients to pool their resources to grow, produce and deliver medical cannabis. Under the measures being considered, collective gardens would be eliminated, meaning that unless current dispensaries receive a license from the state, they will have to close.
In 2011, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed most of a bill that sought to regulate the state's medical marijuana system, expressing concerns about possible prosecution of state workers under federal law. At the end of 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize possession of recreational marijuana by adults 21 and older. The votes also called for systems of state-licensed pot growers, processors and retail stores.
Sales have already begun in Colorado, but licensed stores in Washington state aren't expected to open until this summer.
Sen. Ann Rivers, a Republican from La Center who is sponsoring one of the measures being considered by the Legislature, calls the state's current medical marijuana system "the Wild West."
"Some regulation in this area would do us good," she said. "It's the only way to ensure that the feds are going to keep their noses out of our business."
Kois, himself a medical marijuana patient who has been using the low-THC products that he makes in order to help treat his Crohn's disease, has applied for a producer license from the state. He said he plans to move his grow into a 21,000-square-foot space in Centralia to accommodate the increased demand that will come from the recreational market, as well as the need to start growing high-THC plants to grow alongside the medical-only ones he grows now. Currently, he has two lines of products, including chocolates, sodas and hard candies: blue labels have a high CBD content; red labels indicate high-THC marijuana, which Kois currently buys from other growers to produce.
"I've seen the writing on the wall for over a year," he said.
Rivers' medical marijuana measure is awaiting a vote in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Her bill is similar to a House bill that has already passed that chamber and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.
Both bills look to reduce the amount of marijuana and number of plants patients can possess, and would do away with collective gardens by the middle of next year. They would also establish a patient registry that would provide medical marijuana patients with an authorization card that would grant them a sales tax break on medical marijuana purchased at authorized stores. Both allow stores to have a medical endorsement to sell medical along with recreational marijuana and also allow an option for endorsed retail stores to solely serve medical marijuana patients. Rivers' bill requires the Liquor Control Board, which is overseeing implementation of I-502, to consider the needs of patients in determining the number of retail licenses issued. Currently, the board has limited recreational retail licenses to 334 across the state, for which there are currently more than 2,000 applications.
Medical marijuana patients flocked to a series of public hearings in both the Senate and House in recent weeks, decrying the potential changes.
Christine Emineth's 5-year-old daughter, Trystyn, suffers from a form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome that required nearly two dozen pills a day to control. She started using a low-THC medical marijuana-infused coconut oil for her daughter about three months ago, and says it's made such a difference she's been able to go off of one of her medications. Emineth said they currently have a designated grower who gives her daughter the medicine for free, and she worries about the prices, as well as the supply of low-THC marijuana, if the medical market is integrated with the recreational one.
"I don't think it's going to be affordable for any family that has medical issues," she said.
Current dispensary owners say they're concerned that recreational marijuana users will get top preference and medical patients will be left scrambling.
"Nobody is going to be required to have a medical endorsement," said Patrick Seifert, who runs Rainier Xpress in downtown Olympia, where he said about a third of his approximately 4,000 patients are veterans. "Patients are going to have to look on a map to find one. What if a medical endorsement isn't in their town?"
In December, the Liquor Control Board gave its final recommendations to the Legislature about how it believes the medical system can be brought under the umbrella of the new law.
Both the House and Senate measures incorporate many of those suggestions, including cutting how much cannabis patients can have from 24 ounces to 3 ounces. Under the recreational law, adults are allowed to have up to an ounce. The measures also limit the number of plants patients can grow to six. Under current regulations, they can grow 15. However, the House measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Eileen Cody allows a health care professional to authorize an unlimited amount more if deemed necessary. The Senate measure, sponsored by Rivers, would allow a health professional to authorize an additional amount, but no more than eight ounces or 15 plants. Her measure would also allow additional amounts for marijuana-infused products like liquids and concentrates.
Steve Mohr, who runs Olympia Alternative Medicine in Olympia, said his hope is that lawmakers revisit the entire issue of combining the markets.
"We want to be regulated, but the thing is we don't want to disappear, and that is what's on the table right now," said Mohr. Neither Mohr nor Seifert applied for retail licenses, and would have to close under the current proposals.
Rivers says she is sympathetic. She notes her late father used medical marijuana to help deal with the severe nausea that was a result of cancer, and that her brother used it while recovering from an accident.
But she said that if the state doesn't do something, both the medical and recreational systems could be compromised.
"What I'm afraid of, is what the feds will do," she said.
The medical marijuana measures are House Bill 2149 and Senate Bill 5887.
When it comes to replicating the barefoot running experience, no brand has built a cult following quite like the team at Vibram. Now their beloved FiveFingers get the trail shoe treatment in the Vibram FiveFingers CVT Hemp. Vibrams are great for running, and now they look to continue to grow their presence with the introduction of a hemp constructed, casual lifestyle shoe. Rather than sporting those vibrant colors that have been all the rage on the gym scene, these shoes are sporting an upper constructed from a hemp/polyester blend that is both comfortable and breathable, while still being extremely durable at the same time. The bottom is constructed from the same Vibram material you know and love. The brand is looking to release these minimalist trail shoes in August with a price tag of $100.
Its finally here. The very first cannabis related job fair is being held in downtown Denver, Colorado on March 13th from 11:00am to 7:00pm. This event is being put on by O.penVAPE at their headquaters downtown: 1058 Deleware St. Denver, CO 80204.
This event is designed to help match some of Denver's finest cannabis businesses & employers with top quality job seekers. The marijuana industry as a whole is experiencing exponential growth right now, mainly due to the recent law changes in Colorado and Washington making recreational marijuana usage legal. Todd Mitchem, O.PenVAPE's Chief Revenue Officer said local cannabis businesses are seeking motivated and qualified individuals in the areas of business management, retail sales, marketing/advertising, accounting, IT, administration and horticulture. CannaSearch has invited over 15 cannabis businesses across Colorado to the event, with may more signing up regularly. Confirmed companies will set up a display and human resources professionals will be interviewing candidates at the fair.
"We're hosting this for the industry and for job seekers," said Mitchem. "We know jobseekers will be pleasently suprised at the high number of well-paying positions within this exciting new industry."
Companies that are wanting to attend the event may contact Calisa Griffin, email@example.com.
O.PenVAPE's leaders, investors, and employees are committed to change the way the public views cannabis. A Colorado company, O.PenVAPE manufactures vaporizer pens, and is one of the largest cannabis brands in the United States. They, along with affiliates, produce a variety of quality elixirs for the delivery of the highest quality cannabis. O.PenVAPE licenses its products in Colorado, California, and Washington, with all its elixirs in full compliance of state law. For more information, please visit o-penvape.com
Minneapolis Councilman Andrew Johnson is one of those rare characters in the medical marijuana debate, playing both politician and patient.
He was diagnosed only a few years ago with an extreme form of glaucoma in both eyes, he says. Before major surgeries, his doctors have prescribed conventional medicine to decreased pressure, one of which had the potential to be fatal.
"Our legislators allowed me to be on a drug that could kill me, but not medical marijuana," Johnson says. "I have, as a result, less vision in my eyes."
The 29-year-old councilman may has a unique problem, but he's not alone in his support of medical marijuana. The Minneapolis Intergovernmental Relations Committee is all set Thursday to add the issue to its legislative agenda. If it's approved by the council, city lobbyists at the state Capitol will be directed to work with lawmakers to get an upcoming bill passed that allows qualifying patients to use marijuana.
A report submitted by those lobbyists takes a favorable view of marijuana as a remedy for the pain caused by certain ailments, including glaucoma. It goes on to state:
Although opponents of medical marijuana have raised concern about increased marijuana use among adolescents, a recent study showed that medical marijuana laws in Montana, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Delaware did not affect frequency of adolescent use of marijuana.
|Mpls Councilman Andrew Johnson|
Minnesota's medical marijuana bill could come up at the state committee level as soon as this week and is expected, in both the House and Senate, to get a proper debate by the end of this short session.
The loudest voice of opposition remains the state's top cops and prosecutors who have the ear of Gov. Mark Dayton. They produced a paper in 2009 arguing that the pain and suffering experienced by cops and prosecutors in combating drug dealers is equal to that experienced by patients with debilitating and terminal illnesses.
"I don't think our support is going to change the statewide bodies representing law enforcement," says Minneapolis councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the intergovernmental committee. "But hopefully there can be a way to continue conversation about the bill, and in a way that it can be drafted to satisfy concerns."
Although many of the concerns of law enforcement have actually been addressed in the current bill, top officials still refuse to come to the table and talk meaningfully with supporters.
As a glaucoma patient, Johnson is affected by the bill personally. But he's also pushing for medical marijuana on behalf of patients like himself and their doctors.
"For our state legislators to say they can't use one of the tools in their tool box is simply wrong," he says.
Johnson and another council member -- Lisa Bender, a cancer survivor -- could testify in St. Paul on the physical toll of conventional medicines.