Bruce Vanaman is deep into cannabis therapy. Nothing else — from surgery to chemotherapy — has affected his life with non-Hodgkin lymphoma so profoundly. After experimenting with just about every homebrewed and store-bought remedy known to man, Bruce made noticeable gains after happening upon “honey oil” in uniform doses.

Say what you will about the FDA, but no prescription has ever left a pharmacy with the dosage information “take as much of this as you want, any time you feel like taking it.” But that’s exactly how most cannatherapy takes place.

Finally, medibles manufacturers have adopted something Big Pharma does right. In Bruce’s case, that development came not a moment too soon.

I’m aware that many of his supporters are anxious to hear how a steady regimen of THC-rich tablets and extracts helped Bruce overcome “a cycle of death” and regain his natural weight. Understood. Feel free to click Play.

HOWEVER, when you’re done watching  the videos, I can’t urge you strongly enough to finish the article below.

Bruce Vanaman has eloquently and inspiringly described real medical marijuana — a magical herb that just happens to prevent, arrest, and reverse a broad spectrum of diseases which became prevalent as the industrial age took hold.

Technically speaking, there is no difference between a bud of “medical marijuana” and a bud of “marijuana.” They’re one and the same.

Unfortunately, filtered by the media, the term “medical marijuana” has taken on a whole new connotation, one that encompasses a mélange of controversial ballot measures, byzantine regulations that won’t stand still, and gray areas of both legality and reality.

Connotations and all, medical marijuana is one option available to “patients.” It’s also an option which happens to exclude 95% of the people who wish they could purchase marijuana conveniently and safely.

Another viewpoint, perhaps more spiritual in nature, stems from the premise that a creator force gave the capable plant to all people — not just people other people have arbitrarily tagged as “patients.” That’s a variation on the theme “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few.”

Nonetheless, on the surface, it would seem that the patient-centric, quasi-legal medical marijuana laws already passed in sixteen states are evidence of progress.

That’s an illusion.

Marijuana, with or without the accompanying adjective, remains one hundred percent illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

And the federal government just happens to have a little old enforcement agency, the DEA, to emphasize the point. A bit of a pit bull, that one. All the monumentally restricted medical marijuana initiatives passed to date haven’t altered that reality.

Witness the recent subtraction of 400 dispensaries from the Southern California landscape. Medical marijuana laws, sold by patient rights groups as the only way to move forward, the only hope “patients” could possibly have for “safe access,” offered not an iota of protection against the onslaught.

Meanwhile, the nobler and infinitely more enabling concept of repealing federal marijuana prohibition has become completely misplaced.

Repealing prohibition has become “the other choice.” One that the media and patient rights groups have by and large abandoned as they continue to insinuate your choice is between medical marijuana and nothing.

They’d have you believe that if you have cancer, HIV, or AIDS, your needs are best served by a medical marijuana-only agenda. They paint quite a rosy picture of a better life through each state’s singular take on medical marijuana legalization.

You may want to think twice before accepting the invitation. Why? Here’s the beginnings of what they’re not telling you:

  • In an ironic twist, medical marijuana actually blocks clinical research into the healing properties of cannabis. Read all about it here.
  • “Winning” these types of initiatives give tacit approval to the DEA’s peculiar determination that a common roadside weed is a Schedule One Drug. Next-to-no researchers are permitted to perform serious clinical tests on Schedule One drugs. The lack of clinical studies has given rise to a guessing game by budtenders — many of whom might otherwise be employed as Hooters chicks —playing the dual roles of diagnosing physician and dispensing pharmacist. What we really need is emerging nanotechnology that tweaks THC and its curative submolecules to target specific diseases —not hot chicks playing make believe.
  • Tens of thousands of veterans returning home from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and who knows where else will have a hit and miss chance of obtaining medical marijuana to alleviate the horrifying symptoms of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]. The vast majority won’t qualify. Prescription drugs will just exacerbate their stress. And pity the poor bomb-sniffing dogs also suffering from PTSD the army now treats with the same questionable pharmaceuticals.
  • The dispensary you choose as a caretaker in your medical marijuana state will be the only business in town which doesn’t have a bank account. Businesses that operate in legal gray areas give the banking industry the heebie-jeebies. If your preferred dispensary takes your credit card today, it may not tomorrow — merchant services also shy away from businesses that can be shut down at a moment’s notice without compensation.
  • If you’re lucky enough to hit upon an effective system of self-medication with cannabis therapy, you can’t take it with you if you ever leave your home state — legally, that is.

Every time Bruce has to cross state lines for treatment, his daily regimen is thrown completely out of whack. Medical marijuana laws outside his home state of Colorado are different or nonexistent. Bruce is subject to arrest if he’s ever caught transporting his meds. Products he knows are effective for him, products he’s reliant on to keep functioning under the stress of his illness, will be unavailable to him in the state he travels to. He can no longer rely on a uniform dose, forcing him to experiment with untested products manufactured through unknown extraction methods. That puts him at severe risk — not where you want to be if you have a choice. Bruce has a choice. And so do you.

Maybe you didn’t even know you had a choice. Now you do.

That choice is between passing “me too” medical marijuana initiatives currently garnering all the publicity or repealing federal prohibition once and for all. The latter isn’t getting a lot of face time these days.

While it’s way behind in the popularity contest, let’s look a hard look at what repealing federal prohibition accomplishes:

  • Opens the door to serious research that could have an exponentially bigger impact on fighting diseases than the crippled legislation that exists in sixteen states.
  • Opens the door in the rest of the states, including conservative states like Wyoming, that would be the last in the union to pass medical marijuana legislation — that is, if they ever pass it.
  • Opens the door for everyone to benefit from cannabis, not just people deemed by words on a piece of paper to be f**ked up enough to “deserve” meds.
  • Opens the door for uniform treatment with known products across state lines, freeing people [not just “patients” who qualify according to arcane requirements] to self-medicate without government harassment.
  • Opens the door to infinitely more jobs in the cannabis industry.
  • Opens the door to wider acceptance by the medical community, which means exponentially better treatment for all.
  • Stops the arrest of 800,000 people a year for pot “offenses.”
  • Frees 45,000 people currently imprisoned for pot offenses, 1,000 of whom are serving life sentences.

The alternative — slogging it out state-by-state, county-by-county, city-by-city, trying to pass crippled marijuana legislation that will remain forever in flux — is over fifty times harder than repealing one federal law that the opposition isn’t even that dug in about.

The brief and limited appearance of what passes for medical medical has really pushed the envelope in medibles — edible, non-combustible means of introducing cannabis into the bloodstream. That’s a positive. But it’s not enough to outweigh the negatives. Not at all.

Passing medical marijuana initiatives in your state insures that you’ll be subjected to bizarre and ever-changing regulations that will keep you constantly on edge, worrying about how things will play out. That’s about the last thing you need when you’re locked in a life-and-death struggle with a debilitating disease.

There are quite a few other unpleasant side effects from passing medical marijuana initiatives that no one else is telling you about.

Remember the phrase “legalize it?” Well, it referred to all marijuana — without the adjective. If you really want the best therapy possible for yourselves, your friends, and your loved ones — for present and future generations — refocus on the task of repealing prohibition. One good march on Washington oughta do the trick.

Thanks for listening.

Note 1:  Watch this space  over the next few days as Cannabis Commerce adds the transcript of a Bruce Vandaman interview from earlier this month, “prints” his actual pathology reports and MRI results, and possibly adds an interview with Bruce’s personal physicians confirming his story.

Note 2:  The products Bruce describes, CannaTabs, VapeCartridges for portable, e-cigarette shaped vaporizers, and Honey Oil, are available from Organa Labs, [in Colorado only, a crying shame]. Although at times it reads like it, this series is not an infomercial for Organa Labs. The company is just way ahead of the curve. The products mentioned in this series have created a buzz in the community for good reason. They represent the industry’s first attempts at providing cannatherapy in uniform doses, duplicating one practice Big Pharma does well. Results have been demonstrable. There are plenty of credible testimonials [like the interview with Shaun Hadley in the series preview].

You’ll be able to see for yourselves and make up your own minds when Cannabis Commerce goes “Inside Organa Labs” later this series.

Update 1/5/2012:  I’m still waiting for medical records supporting the claims made in this article. I just re-requested these; I don’t have it in me to push cancer patients too hard. If we can’t get Bruce’s records, I’ll look elsewhere for a similar success story.—LK

Transcript of an audio interview with Bruce Vanaman, 11/14/11

CC = Lory Kohn for Cannabis Commerce; BV = Bruce Vanaman

CC:   Bruce, you tried every conventional cancer treatment known to man. You tried every doctor but Doctor Zhivago. What got you on the cannabis trail?

BV:  Another doctor I knew, Dr. Jim Bolan, who used to be my roommate for like 15 years, recommended to me that I try cannabis. He’s pretty popular; most people know who he is. And I did. And it worked for helping with the nausea and the vomiting, and the general pain of wasting away. And then I got into it myself.

CC:  What year are we talking about?

BV:  This would be 2007.

CC:  Before there were any dispensaries in Colorado.

BV:  Yes. And I’m a pretty smart guy. To give you a little history, my grandfather was a moonshiner years ago in the West Virginia and Pennsylvania area.  And he taught me how to moonshine. I applied some of those techniques to distilling plant matter into organic compounds that I could use to help heal myself. And I started reading and educating myself and became very familiar with types of hemp oils, cannabis oils, [Canadians tend to call both “hemp oil”] that you could make yourself. Everything from this Rick Simpson method to, well, I tried every method that there was. Butane, naphtha, propane, all kinds of stuff.

And then I started tinkering around with using supercritical CO2 extraction and started working with these issues with a friend out of New Zealand, and came up with some really good ideas. One time, as my health was deteriorating, I managed to get up to Kushcon [cannabis convention] and talk to Ralph Morgan and Matt who went on to start Organa Labs. Then I talked to them at another event when I was in between surgeries, when I was able to get up, and have some people walk me into the convention and talk to a few people.

CC:  This was still before dispensaries [2009]?

BV:  Oh, yeah. Way before that. And I was just looking for ways of making myself heal better without having to smoke bud. Because I hate smoking.

CC:  Now, when you say “heal,” were you looking for reduction of the cancerous tumors or just relief from the rigors of chemotherapy?

BV:  Well, first relief from the nausea of the chemotherapy. But as I read more into the science of it — especially the stuff that the country of Israel has written up on this from a medical standpoint, there was so much that was untouched under the Delta 9 receptors and stuff like that, and using the whole endocannabinoid system to help activate parts of your own immune system. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma destroys a lot of your immune system. Chemotherapy, radiation, and the dissection just about did me in.

At that Kushcon that I went to, which was literally eleven days after my last surgery, I went and talked to Bucky Minor. I talked to Ralph and Matt about some of the formulas I came up with using isopropyl alcohol and how it wasn’t perfect and how I was just doing trial and error stuff on my own property.  And I was getting some good results and talking with doctors and stuff, but missing the true purist way to extract the things that we need out of cannabis

CC:  Bruce when you talk about CO2 extraction, are you talking about the big honking extractor machine from Eden labs?

BV:  There’s a myriad of other companies that make small ones that fit on a desktop, and huge ones.  There are a couple of different pharmaceutical companies and herbal extract companies that make primary use of those things.

CC:  I was under the impression that to use CO2 you’d need an industrial strength machine like OrganaLabs uses. But maybe that’s just to produce in the larger quantities that they need.

BV:  Yeah, that’s exactly it. Because you can get small ones, but they only extract like a cup of product at a time. That comes out to like a thimbleful of oil at best.

CC:  What about the water extraction method?

BV:  The cold water extraction method works to a point but it doesn’t remove the impurities like chlorophyll that are associated with the pulp and the fiber that come along with organic matter.

CC:  Thanks. Please continue with your story.

BV:  So, I was experimenting with this stuff with some very smart people online, just to help me find some methods to help ease some issues I was having with the cancer treatment. And then finally, when I talked to Ralph and Matt, I started trying their form of hemp oil. We’d been talking about this on and off for probably about a year. I was in treatment a great deal, so I wasn’t able to get out and show them what I came up with compared with what they were doing. We’re all trying to get to the same end by different means. And then one day Matt gave me a sample of his Honey Oil and said try it. And I did. And it worked phenomenally. I was able to eat a full meal. I didn’t feel so queasy the rest of the day. So I started using those products more and more, the non-carcinogenic means, cause I really hate smoking. I don’t mind the taste of it; I just can’t stand the idea of putting anything carcinogenic back in my body when I already have cancer.

CC:  Understood.

BV:  A lot of other doctors were paying attention to this. I went through a myriad of other surgeries and chemo trials. Finally I was sent back east to the National Cancer Institute’s clinical trial for adrenal carcinoma of the small intestine. My non-Hodgkin lymphoma had moved into my intestinal tract and started eating it up.

I was on a “cycle of death,” every 90 to 120 days — surgery, radiation, surgery, radiation. And there was only so much time and so much of my intestinal tract that was left before there’d be no more me.

I started fooling around more with the hemp oils and other means of getting cannabinoids into my system. It started showing a great effect. I told  the doctors back east that I was taking it whether they liked it or not — and I didn’t get any argument. Because it was showing positive results. I went from a low weight of 117 pounds to now I’m 156.

CC:  When’s the last time you were operated on?

BV:  March. March 15th, 2011. I had a surgery on December 11th, I think it was. I was scheduled to have another surgery in June and I pretty much told them all to go to hell. I mean I still have some masses in my small intestine, six of them to be precise, but they have reduced, and they have not grown a millimeter since April. I’m also undergoing an intravenous herbal infusion therapy with high doses of pharmaceutical grade ascorbic acid, vitamin C, D3, Meyer’s cocktail, and B complexes to supplement the hemp oil therapies. Now I eat two to three meals a day. I’ve gained my weight back. My hair’s come back, I have a full head of hair and I’m leading a pretty “normal” life — knowing that there’s still cancer in me. But, as of my last blood test, my t-cell count is down. My doctors are ecstatic with how things look right now.

CC:   What forms of hash oil are you using? VapeCartridges?

BV:  VapeCartridges, CannaTabs, Honey Oil religiously — I take that first thing in the morning.

CC:  You take it pure? How do you take it?

BV:  I just take a dip of it on the little applicator they give me. I dip some; I stick it under my tongue and let it dissolve. First thing in the morning, the first thing I put into my mouth is that. And then I can eat my thirty pills that I have to take every morning. And then I have a breakfast.

CC:  So it doesn’t supplant the pharmaceutical cocktail you have to take.

BV:  No, no, most of the pills are probiotics because I’m missing a good chunk of my intestinal tract.

CC:  To go with the anti-cancer cocktails?

BV:  No, no I am no longer taking any of the drug list! Cysplati for chemotherapy. I am no longer on Oxycontin, Vicadin, and Percocet. I no longer take Zofran, Pomecquin, whatever that was for nausea. I take none of it at all any longer. That damn Zofran, oh, god. I hated that stuff. That was supposed to be anti nausea medication … it just made you feel like hell.

CC:  Does Matt customize the Honey Oil for you specifically?

BV:  Nope. It’s what he makes right off the shelf. We’ve talked about this issue, Matt, Ralph and myself, because they know I know chemistry and I know where they’re at with these things. But they already have the equipment, they already have the means to make this, and they’ve worked out a lot of the bugs that I couldn’t do when I was in the hospital.

And current with my doctors that I’m undergoing therapy with right now, they just wish that it was legal in this state [Florida]. It could benefit so many people with HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, and all kinds of other cancer issues through non-carcinogenic means. The ability to administer the medicine orally and through vaporizers is a godsend for all that.

CC:  Do you credit being able to take “medication” in standardized doses as being super-helpful too?

BV:  Yes. But I take probably a lot more than most people do and I have no psychoactive effects at all. None. I don’t get high. If I smoked a bud, yes, I’d be high as a bat. But the Honey Oil and the CannaTabs, they work more on the body and removing the nausea more than it gives a psychoactive effect.

CC:  It’s very pure. I’ve tried a lot of it myself. And a couple of hours later, it’s like you never took it. Though for me, Avatar looked pretty good in 3D.

BV:  The thing is it’s organic. You can’t OD on it. And it works really well for me.

The regimen I’m doing, like I said, I take it first thing in the morning, and then when I start feeling a little bit not so nauseated, I take my medications [probiotics and vitamins] and nutrients that I have to take every morning, and then I have a breakfast. To just do that feat … took four years. That was four years in the making to get to that part.

CC:  Can Matt fine tune the CBDs?

BV:  I’ve asked Matt if he can do that, and he can do that, yes. But he can’t get enough of the product to make specific, custom-tailored therapies [the “product” is made from other usable parts of the plant except for the more expensive buds from their own grows and whatever amounts of the same Organa Labs can legally buy from other growers].

CC:  But fortunately for you, whatever he’s doing just happens to take care of things for you. That’s a nice miracle.

[Update 8/14/2012: Unfortunately, Bruce never provided Cannabis Commerce with the medical records he said he’d supply. Cannabis Commerce is not in the habit of pressuring terminal cancer sufferers for anything. However, from now on, we will only discuss cancer patients medicating with cannabis who provide blood tests, MRIs, etc. and doctor’s corroboration. Presently, there are too many testimonials and not enough records. We have some ideas how to change that we’ll be sharing shortly]