By Larry Gabriel
Gersh Avery has a thing for hemp. He’s not one of the folks trying to get industrial hemp legalized so we can enjoy the economic benefits of producing and selling the hundreds of items that can be made from the fibrous substance. They want to create clothing, biofuels, skin creams and more from the hemp plant. There are plenty of those kinds of hemp advocates around.
On the other hand Avery’s hemp focus is strictly for its medicinal value. Avery calls himself a medical marijuana specialist, because he is a registered patient, grower, activist and student of what he calls the archaeology of marijuana.
“I’m a drug law reform advocate,” he says. “I was working toward that, but when the medical marijuana petition drive came up, I shifted focus from the war against drugs to medical marijuana. The more that I saw in these various medical reports, the more I became excited about the plant’s potential to do incredible good. If a medical condition can go away, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s living a miracle being able to watch things happen from one day to the next that doctors don’t believe can happen.”
Avery, who lives in Washtenaw County, has a long list of ailments that he treats in part with medical marijuana — bladder cancer, diabetes, scoliosis, arthritis, bone spurs and more. The problem for Avery is that while using medical marijuana, he’s not interested in the high. He wants to be clearheaded, which is why he’s fascinated with hemp. We all know you can’t smoke rope for the buzz, but hemp is believed to be high in cannabidiol (CBD) a cannabinoid that has shown potential in treating some cancers (particularly in inhibiting the spread of breast cancer), inflammation, nerve diseases such as Crohn’s and multiple sclerosis, and indeed as an anti-diabetic.
There are up to 100 cannabinoids in marijuana, THC (the substance that creates the high) and CBD are but two of them. Cannabinoids, which are also produced naturally by our bodies, attach to receptors in our bodies and help regulate such things as body temperature, blood pressure, mood and more.
“Diabetes isn’t a listed condition for medical marijuana in Michigan, but I’m using cannabis for working my diabetes,” Avery says. “Cannabis drops blood sugar. There are quite a few conditions that a lot of people are very unaware of that can be treated with cannabis.”
Avery gets much of his information through Granny Storm Crow’s List, a currently 429-page PDF document listing scientific studies of marijuana and links to websites where the results are published. In the introduction to her list, Granny writes: “When I began using cannabis medically over 40 years ago, there was no such thing as ‘medical use’ — not even the concept existed! Education has made the difference. Somewhere along the line, every one of the people who have voted to legalize
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By Larry Gabriel