Not too long ago, David LaMoureaux felt he had lost his faith in Washington’s medical marijuana system.
Though state officials said it made sense, at least on paper, to merge the medical and recreational systems in 2016, this action created all sorts of complications and complaints.
Medical marijuana patients found that many products that they felt helped their health and their quality of life jumped in price. Hundreds of dispensaries shut their doors, and many patients missed the close relationship they once had with their local gardener, and weren’t comfortable going to a new store and reaching out to whatever budtender happened to be on duty. Others had concerns about sharing private medical information with the state’s medical database to only save a few bucks.
“I wanted to give up,” said LaMoureaux, a patient and consultant.
At the same time, many growers began putting increased effort into cultivating plants and products that produced the highest yields and greater profits due to greatest demand from recreational customers, not necessarily the best strains to help people. Likewise, some retailers were accused of offering fewer items especially for medical patients, especially those with limited incomes.
LaMoureaux didn’t like what he was seeing either, so he began looking for ways to continue to assist patients as much as possible, within legal boundaries.
Today, as medical lead at Satori, LaMoureaux continues to focus on providing useful information about the right cannabis to benefit brains and bodies. He’s also always happy to answer questions about recommended strains, dosage, equipment, benefits, risks, and current laws.
“A lot of education is lacking,” he said.
Last year, he and the Satori staff began organizing free educational seminars and networking events. These evening gatherings at a private location near the South Hill shop were designed to be informal and fun settings to ask any kind of questions, meet with experts and learn the terminology. There’s no pressure to buy anything or worries about feeling overwhelmed.
People seeking medical help can also receive pointers on the state’s authorization process, including proper paperwork needed to get medical cards.
“We put on maybe 10, 20 of these patient appreciation evenings, but they were kind of random,” said Kayla Keane, manager of Satori South. “We tried a lot of ways to reach people, including a tea party-themed party and a winter wonderland tasting party.”
Get excited for seminars
This year, Satori’s outreach efforts are getting more organized.
LaMoureaux invites anyone age 21 and over to the same private Spokane location on the last Friday of each month to learn from cannabis experts. These “Final Friday” seminars also provide recommendations for useful products along with general education.
Similar community seminars and outreach presentations are also planned in Bellingham, organized by Mia Gover, a medical marijuana consultant who formerly worked at the North Spokane store. Gover also was instrumental in putting together many of Satori’s early community medically-focused events.
The 2019 seminars will also include information about how patients can access low-cost or even free medical-grade cannabis.
LaMoureaux spent several months talking with officials from the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board, the Department of Health, which he said all signed off on the legality of it.
This effort starts with growers setting aside some of their product normally marked for destruction. This material typically includes plant stems, leaves or roots, none of which have much commercial value.
This waste product is either donated to Satori or purchased at a reduced price. Then it’s sent to an extractor to be processed into RSO, a specific type of cannabis oil that many people maintain has healing properties. As a final safety measure, Confidence Analytics, a Redmond lab, will test the oil for harmful ingredients like pesticides or other potential impurities.
“Then we’ll work with nurses and doctors in the community to find people who need this product but can’t afford it,” LaMoureaux said. “Some might get it free, others we can subsidize.”
Patients with high pain needs, such as those fighting cancer, may need a lot of oil with high concentrations of CBD, a compound known to cause pain relief, sometimes more than 200 mg a day. This can be cost-prohibitive especially for those without regular income.
Being eligible for the program requires receiving medical authorization and registering with Washington’s medical database.
“This will allow the state to monitor what we’re doing and help regulate things,” he said. “We’re not going to just hand out free cannabis to anyone who comes in – we’ll take things on a case-by-case basis.”
LaMoureaux said he’s already seeing support from growers around the state. Though the market conditions are competitive these days, many people who have been part of the industry for years began still have a strong interest in helping patients and finding ways to be compassionate when possible.
He encourages people to come to any of the Final Friday nights or any other educational seminars during the year to learn more. These will be fun and touch on everything from how to make edibles to current research into ways cannabis can help health conditions.
One of February’s seminar speakers was Jeremy Kaufman, owner of CPC, one of the first state-certified medical cannabis consultants. Representatives from Trace Analytics also discussed the testing process.
LaMoureaux said there are a lot of good things planned this year.
“These can be meet-and-greets, good conversations, and general outreach,” LaMoureaux said. “This whole program is a win-win for everyone.”
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