BURG: Low Key Trash. The wonderful Debbie Hopkins is in the building with us today and we are here to speak a little bit about cannabis and the benefits of health. Would you like to give us a little introduction?
Debbie Hopkins: I am a registered nurse and I work at Cape Cod hospital. I work in the operating room. I have always been kind of out there in less of the traditional medical sense and more of the complimentary medicine and all of these beautiful modes of healing that bring a sense of what's real.
Debbie Hopkins: And allow people to live their best life and express themselves in a calm and even minded way.
BURG: Yes, which we need more of these days, especially with the way times are going right now. We need some calmness in this era. We need some peace, some love.
Debbie Hopkins: And then my husband got cancer. When he got cancer, we were told that it is a type of cancer that is not typically treated with the traditional sense of medicines, chemo and radiation. So I'm a nurse and I'm like, well, I'm going to find out how I can help you. We did the diet route a little bit and with his particular cancer, they said to him, go home maybe six months. I did a little more investigating and found out that cannabis might have some of the medicinal properties he was going to need to heal. It has now become this really great journey for us. Now we are growing cannabis and we are turning it into medicine. I'm now a cannabis nurse and educating a lot of people out here in the world or a little part of the world about how to use cannabis as medicine and to dose therapeutically and do the other things that allow you to find purpose and meaning in life like being out in nature and playing around, exploring what your body can do and how it feels at all times.
BURG: Oh yes. That's true. I feel like a lot of people are actually out of touch these days with our phones, especially TV, computers, laptops, iPods, iPads, all that. And you find a way, even in today's times to still teach us about like the real, like you were saying, like the real life, the real feelings. How did you find yourself…? What was your first experience with cannabis and you were like, wow, this is actually... When did it click and you were like, okay, this is something that I can like… It's working. It's something that's you've been experimenting with throughout your whole life.
Debbie Hopkins: Yeah, I probably was about 14 or 15 years old. I lived up in Bourne at the time. So yeah, there was quite a population of adolescents who were exploring back then. At that time it was really an interesting thing, but I was kind of straddling two worlds. Am I this jock who likes to run track, cross country or am I this person who likes to smoke a little pot and go out and party and then trying to find that and blend out and find who I was and then getting married and then you have kids and then you start settling down into this life that seems very habitual.
Pot was bad. Cannabis, you didn't call it. It was marijuana. It was pot and it was bad. When my kids started experimenting with it, I went that route. I'm like, nope, nope, you can't do it. I kind of did that thing where it sort of is hypocritical and banned it from my kids and thought it was a bad thing and really didn't look into the history of it until this dire need popped up with us. It just seemed... At the same time it coincided with the change in laws in the state as well. Not the change of attitudes, because we still have a long way to go although the stigma is slowly peeling away.
BURG: That's interesting because there is always a stigma, but you are a nurse, right?
Debbie Hopkins: Yeah.
BURG: So you are sort of like playing on both sides.
Debbie Hopkins: I’m really learning about the science and the medicine of cannabis and it's quite stunning when you learn about it and it's really amazing that even to this day in medical schools, they won't talk about it at all. They don't bring it up to the doctors who are going to be taking care of you, who are taking care of you in a legal state and so they should learn about your endocannabinoid system. They should be able to know that you have this condition and you are going to, you've decided now you want to use this legal cannabis whole plant medicine and maybe there might be some drug interactions with your medicine and so I should know about it, but they don't want to know about it. That's really not forward looking, I think the physicians in this world right now that...
BURG: Yeah. It's slowly becoming integrated into society and accepted. It's kind of weird that at the medical level they are not taking it as seriously as your neighbor, your next door neighbor who has had no pain for this many years or whatever their problem was, they can find a way to like curb that problem a little bit.
Debbie Hopkins: Very interesting though, very interesting. And the other aspect of that though is that these doctors, they don't really know how it functions in your body, but some of them, they go home and they are smoking it, you know that they are. The other thing is I rather them smoke pot than drink and then come into the operating room and the next morning and say, or with an hangover, because if you just smoke a little pot at night, perhaps you are going to wake up and feel just refreshed and ready to put your best game forward. Not all the pot out there in the world that people smoke is high THC really going to put you over the top with euphoria or other symptoms some people are often out to report. If you find the right strain of cannabis, you are just going to reap the benefits and the relaxation that the body needs to be able to rest with the energy and the attention that you need the next day to focus.
BURG: Oh yeah, I can definitely relate. You know what I'm saying? I definitely feel like that to a T. I've definitely had situations where I've been super anxious off of weed, but I've also have had times where I've been like, wow, like I wish I could just have this one bud or whatever it is, or edible forever.
Debbie Hopkins: That's the other thing. It's like people say, "I've had a lot of pot. I feel like I'm dying". You are not going to die. You will not die from cannabis. You just won't. Our whole entire body, every single system in our body, our digestive, our cardiac, our neuro system, lymphatic, skin, all these systems in our body have endocannabinoid receptors. The only place in our body that doesn't is our brain stem. So that is where our drive to breathe is, the respiratory drive, it starts in the brain stem. If you OD on opioids that's the first, that's where you stop breathing. The opioids have receptors in the brain stem. You may feel like you are going to die if you have too much cannabis.
BURG: Yeah, I've definitely been there.
Debbie Hopkins: But you are not going to respiratory arrest.
BURG: That's so funny. I usually talk myself through it. If I do like... One of my first times ever going to California, after being over here and I smoking weed, when I went over there to smoke weed, I sort of felt like… I was sort of assuming it was going to be like on this coast and you know, I kind of...
Debbie Hopkins: What did you think? It was like this is a little more intense or was it stronger?
BURG: It's stronger. I feel like there is literally more THC or the THC that's in there is just stronger than what we have over here. Maybe it's the light or something that they get over there.
Debbie Hopkins: This going to be fun. I can't wait because we are going to be growing as like anti-cooperative into our other four farms. We are committed to growing organic outside soil grown, sun grown using the best organic practices possible. We will be employing something called KNF farming which stands for Korean Natural Farming. You know how the Korean people use kimchi?
BURG: Kimchi, yeah.
Debbie Hopkins: That's fermented foods that are really good for the gut. They have a lot of probiotics in it. The same idea or concept, you take bits and pieces of plants as they grow in different times during their growth period and you put them in some kind of a solution that it ferments and then you pour the solution back into the soil. This will be a probiotic for your soil and these plants are going to be bigger and stronger. So like thinking about growing on Cape Cod, we are just bunch of like porous sand, right?
BURG: Yeah, exactly.
Debbie Hopkins: So we use these techniques where we are not only just using the KNF techniques, but we go around to local farms, find the local poop.
BURG: I'm sure they will be glad to give you that.
Debbie Hopkins: And then grab the seaweed right off here. We do these other things called lasagna gardening where you layer with carbon and then nitrogen, carbon and nitrogen and you get a nice pile of soil that over the winter starts to cook down and the worms start coming through and doing their magic. We are going to grow some badass pot here man, just saying.
BURG: I was going to ask you because you are absolutely right. I think it's going to be interesting because, for us being on the coast, I feel like we should be able to incorporate some of that ocean, seaweed, shell and sand.
Debbie Hopkins: This is all natural techniques and this is what we need to do to move forward in the earth with everything. We have to employ any type of things that reduce recycle, reuse. We have to come together and learn how to move forward in a peaceful way that actually benefits all of us together fairly equally. We have to love each other. We have to find compassion. And so that's where that other stuff comes from like the yoga. Breathing is another tactic. Then you start to think about going into your breath, lengthening your exhales, slow it down, smooth it up. There is science there too. It's so cool. It's like the Vegas nerve. When you slow your breath down and you lengthen exhales something happens in your body where you upregulate relaxation and that can take you into a better space in your mind too.
BURG: Yeah, I mean it's funny because I know it varies for everybody.
Debbie Hopkins: Yeah, we all have different bodies and it's like that with everything. The specific medicines, you have a strepto, we give penicillin, that kind of thing. For the greatest number of the population, there is going to be no reaction, but there is going to be some that have a reaction. And so it's like that with cannabis, but the cannabis is more difficult because you don't know where it has been grown. You don't know what it's been treated with. You might have the same strain, but it was grown in two different places. You've been smoking all your life and I've been smoking for a week, so all of these other things, or I have a cold or a virus or something, anything or I'm on other medication, all that.
BURG: Yeah, I wouldn’t even know about.
Debbie Hopkins: As far as cannabis as medicine goes, it's really important to find somebody who knows what they are talking about. Rose Cain who is a nurse practitioner based out of Plymouth and she certifies patients once or twice a month and she educates you and then if she can't spend that time with you, she refers you to someone like me who has really started to pull apart the research, look at it and decide, okay, guess what you are telling me you have anxiety and I know that perhaps there is a certain terpene out there, a compound inside this cannabis that you shouldn't have because it could exacerbate that anxiety, but I know that there is another terpene in this strain over here that is more calming. Terpenes are what give all foods, plants their scent and...
Debbie Hopkins: Taste, yeah. So it's like playing around sometimes. You have to find the right strain. It takes some time and you have to have patience and so you have a nurse who knows and has this information who can help you.
BURG: Yeah. I actually recommended to somebody I worked with that... He said he is super anxious and stuff all the time and I just recommended to him to go grab a bottle of CBD. Some people say it doesn't work, but he seems to be doing... He says he is like... He loves it now. He has some every day and he is just calm.
Debbie Hopkins: That's nice.
BURG: He doesn't feel the anxiety that he used to when he is like, I don't know when he drives or whatever it might be. He is so scared to smoke. He will not smoke weed at all. He is like, I'm not touching any weed, but I'll try the CBD.
Debbie Hopkins: That's great that he has found something.
BURG: And now he is excited to go to a dispensary and see what they can do for him, you know, and like...
Debbie Hopkins: It's really interesting. You need to have both. You have to have. If you are just trying to get CBD oil, it really behooves you to check to make sure you have at least 0.3 THC in there. In a way, it’s one... In a very simplistic way to put this is that the THC pushes open the neuro receptors door to allow the CBD to come in and so they really work well together like that. They work better together. Then after a while, people do develop a tolerance and that's not a bad thing. It's about toning, what we call toning your endocannabinoid system. What I mean by that is that a hundred years ago, cannabis was everywhere. It was everywhere. It just grew on the side of the road. All the animals that we would have at that time, our chickens, our goat ate it and then we ate them or their byproducts.
Prohibition was thrown down and it was eradicated. So for a hundred years, almost most of us had the cannabis that we need in our body. The endocannabinoids have not received what they needed. In that hundred years’ time what we are seeing are huge increases in diseases such as inflammatory conditions, fibromyalgia, you are seeing Alzheimer's, you are seeing Parkinson’s. A lot of this is because of an inflammation somewhere in the body or brain. There is a doctor called Dr. Ethan Russo. He is a neurologist and he coined this term called the endocannabinoid deficiency. He theorizes that we are all walking around deficient in our endocannabinoid system. Well, not me anymore and not you, most of us. And so just a little bit starts coming into the body and we talked about all those systems, our body systems. It seems like the biggest job of a toned endocannabinoid system or cannabis, using cannabis as medicine is to put your body and all these systems back into balance or to find the balance that best exists for you and to help you along. That's pretty freaking cool. That's science.
BURG: Yeah, that's real science. That's like the real, like you can't get any realer than that, like forget a book. You just have to go and do that.
Debbie Hopkins: Psychedelics, psychedelics as medicine.
BURG: I've slowly been hearing about... I've been reading about that a little bit. I heard they have been legalizing psilocybin in certain states.
Debbie Hopkins: In some places.
BURG: Yeah. Around the US, only a few right now.
Debbie Hopkins: It's going to be the same way. So they are actually doing clinical research at John Hopkins down in Baltimore using psilocybes and LSD microdosing it for clients or patients who have severe anxiety or depression, PTSD and the other thing is like a fear of death, that kind of thing. They are microdosing these people and giving them in this beautiful room to sit in with a Buddhist statue and, or whatever pleases them. They have a therapist who is there as kind of a guide not to really bounce things off of, but they... These people are reporting such significant spiritual experiences that afterwards their depression and anxiety decrease a lot.
The funny thing is we went to see... My husband and I went to Maine to go see a doctor, Dustin Solich who is a cannabis expert up in Maine, because he recently had a few more spots on a scan. I just wanted to make sure that after three and a half years of warning that I was doing everything right. He said I was really doing well and he gave us a few extra suggestions, but he asked John this, you know... We talked about psilocybes for spirituality, and he asked John this very profound question about death and his life and his goals, because he has stage four cancer. So John, my husband gave him this, this like very profound spiritual answer. And so Dustin Solich, Dr. Solich looked at him and went, "Wow. That was great. You don't need it". And then he deadpan looked at me like this and went, "You need it". Okay, now I guess I'm going to have to take doctor's orders. I'm going to find some cow patties or something.
BURG: There is nothing wrong with that. It's natural. It's from the earth.
Debbie Hopkins: That's right. And that's where we have to go for so many reasons. Everything has to come back to natural
BURG: I always hear that when people take mushrooms it literally connects them to the earth. There is some sort of... Mushrooms are something that people... There is not much known about mushrooms like the mushroom world and...
Debbie Hopkins: The research is starting. There is now a new nursing group, the International Nursing Psilocybe Association, something like that. And these are cannabis nurses. These are serious groups of nurses who are pulling the research from wherever they can get it, pulling it together and going out there and they are armed with this information and they are changing how medicine is going to have to go forward. They are changing this and they are doing it with real science and real research.
BURG: That's important.
Debbie Hopkins: I'm happy to be affiliated with both those groups.
BURG: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's really, really like really important. You also do farming?
Debbie Hopkins: Yeah.
BURG: You have your own farm, correct?
Debbie Hopkins: We are farming and so we are going to be farming cannabis very soon, hopefully when we get our license. Hopefully the application should be going in within a week or two with all the four farms. But up until then we are just growing all the things that people like that are greens and then we sell it to the farmer's market. We also have a CBD company that we started as well and making balm to rub into the joint. We are using, we've sourced some very interesting oil that comes from the Lakota tribes. These people of course, have huge reverence for the earth and their product is made with that reverence. So it's organic and I'm really proud of that.
BURG: Yeah, that's that extra step that people like to skip, unfortunately, but you are just...
Debbie Hopkins: Because it's expensive.
Debbie Hopkins: True. It can be expensive.
BURG: Yeah, that’s true.
Debbie Hopkins: That's another thing. We try to work with people. If they can't afford something, we are going to try to figure out a way to get that for them.
BURG: We are pretty much on the forefront on this side, you know, on the east coast, like anybody who has been putting in time for cannabis and experimenting in their kitchen and making these soaps for their friends or like…
Debbie Hopkins: So much... and candies or edibles,
BURG: And all this stuff. It's actually going to be worth something. You can actually make some money off that or maybe...
Debbie Hopkins: Or make your own medicine.
Debbie Hopkins: Because now you could grow six plants and learning how to do it. It's like, in a way it's a weed, so you don't really have to do too much to it, but once you learn the science of it, you can turn that into just very prolific weed.
BURG: Yeah, I think that's like... and that's the thing that people don't really want to talk about, like to talk about growing weed because of the stigma to it. It's okay, like, you know, growing your little plants and stuff.
Debbie Hopkins: Growing that, doing yoga, being outside, doing the things that give you purpose and meaning and joy and sharing that with somebody. That's what it's all about. You know, that's really what it's all about.
BURG: I think we need to do more sharing, definitely, for sure in these times. I just think like especially out here in P-town and on the lower Cape, we need to be sort of neighborly and like help each other out especially...
Debbie Hopkins: There are some good groups here too that do that. That's nice.
BURG: Yes, especially with these...
Debbie Hopkins: Helping our women.
BURG: Yeah, exactly.
Debbie Hopkins: There are some great groups out here.
BURG: There are no cannabis groups here really. Personally, haven't seen any.
Debbie Hopkins: So there is. Every first Monday of the month there is a cannabis group of people who are really about the business or want to learn about the business and they get together. I can't think of the name of course, right now, but there is a Facebook page that links to it and then they get together and kind of just discuss where it's going, regulation wise and what we can do as a group to help push them forward and so that it's more fair. For us, this is really interesting. You know, the four farmers, we are just small farmers, right? We don't have money. We have no money compared to a corporation that gets up and running and starts big, huge facilities of gross space and then can get the licenses and all of these other things easily.
We didn't have a lawyer when we first started. We had to go to the town hall. We had to do all these things from scratch and fight because people were not for this and still people aren't for it. But in our little neck of the woods, in Truro, we overwhelmingly, at town hall two times the people voted for cannabis and yet still a handful of noisy, loud people in Truro tried to stop it. We finally got that host community agreement and we are going to be moving through and hopefully we are going to come together and really be spectacularly successful in not only just, we don't want to just grow the cannabis, we still want to grow our vegetables because that's important to us, but we want to grow the business so that young people will have a job and stay here because that's what... That's not good. People are leaving. Young people are leaving the Cape.
BURG: Nobody wants to stay here anymore.
Debbie Hopkins: Well, you can't afford it, first of all. Who can afford it? If you are not wealthy, you are not going to be able to live here on what is… minimum, $12/$13 an hour now. Even at 15 what it should be and we still have to wait to go to that, you can't live here. So if we can... These four farms end up having to have four or five employees to add that might be young and youthful and want to stay here and give them a really fair wage and we start turning out great products, how wonderful is that for this place?
BURG: I know for a fact it would definitely be good to have at least something for the young people to like, because it's in the future. It's coming up.
Debbie Hopkins: Well, I know that all of our four farms, we can't compete with them. So we are going to have this... We have this social equity thing go and we will hopefully build up and hopefully employ young people and keep you here and make this place a viable place to live and an exciting place.
BURG: I mean, it is, but we need we need people to bring us back here instead of kicking us out, you know?
Debbie Hopkins: Yeah.
BURG: We want to feel welcome as part of the culture that we are growing up in right now. That's actually, that's crazy. How do you feel about this dispensary that we are supposed to be getting in the next couple of weeks in town?
Debbie Hopkins: I feel pissed off that it hasn't been opened yet. Like, come on! What the hell? It should have been opened by now.
BURG: You are right, you are right.
Debbie Hopkins: That's bullshit. We are not going to see really any big changes in the hospitals or rehab centers until we get some level of federal legality. The problem is Congress right now. They could pass it. I think it actually did pass through Congress and it stalled in the Senate desks right now. So unfortunately, without federal legalization research will not be taken seriously in any of the big institutions because they get Medicare money. That's federal money and they think that if they do anything with marijuana that they will be refused those funds. So that's a... That frightens them. Weed that is used in some of the places that have been granted research ability in the United States is piss poor. They want research like collecting things. When did you start it? When do you use it? How often are you using it? What strain do you typically use? Do you find relief? They can get that kind of information and that starts to paint a picture, but they have to be able to get like for scientists who have their hands in government and thinking about all the other lobbying things that go like insurance and all these other people who have an interest in you not using it, probably.
There is a scientist in Israel, Dr. David Miri, and to briefly just say his experiment, this is what they are kind of like looking for. He had six Petri dishes in a row and he took his best six strains of cannabis extract and he put breast cancer cells and prostate cancer cells in those Petri dishes. He took the strains, put them in there and they saw that these strains in the breast cancer cells, that first row killed the breast cancer cells, and did not touch the prostate cancer cells. And then in the next two, it killed the prostate cancer cells, didn't at all kill the breast cancer cells. In that the third row of series, nothing grew, but nothing died. That's the science that they are starting to dial in on. So there is so much to learn. It's just so much to learn.
BURG: That’s kind of crazy.
Debbie Hopkins: So it's really cool.
BURG: So there is like... I don't really know what to think about that.
Debbie Hopkins: It can kill cancer.
BURG: Yeah, exactly. Which means it's probably why...
Debbie Hopkins: But there are only certain strains that can do it for certain types of cancers. So that's where they have to start focusing down on. We can't do that in the United States with just that one sample that we have from Mississippi. It's just not going to happen and it's not going to help until it becomes legal at the federal level. Yeah.
BURG: That's what we are working towards, hopefully.
Debbie Hopkins: We are.
BURG: We want it to be legal. We want it to be legal.
Debbie Hopkins: It is. Genies out of the bottle. It really is.
BURG: If I came to you as a patient and I was like, I have been having these migraines and headaches, like constant headaches, how would you go about?
Debbie Hopkins: Well, first of all I would say, have you seen your doctor? Because I want to cover my ass and find out the rest of your history. I would take a health history from you. I would find out what kind of medicines you are currently on. If you truly have a history of migraines, you might be on something that tries to constrict the blood vessels in the brain. Because cannabis is actually a vasodilator, the blood vessels would open and you might get even more of a headache. So you have to be careful with the strain that you go with. I would say I would start at a low THC higher CBD, start at low doses even everyday though, not just when you got the headache. I would just start to start bringing up that endocannabinoid tone we were talking about and build up your tolerance and slowly titrate up on the dose.
We do have this saying as cannabis nurses. It's start low, go slow. And then if you were to take for any other condition something with high THC, if you had not been taking anything with THC and you are taking an edible, for instance, start with 2.5 milligrams. Don't repeat it for at least two hours because you are going to sit there though and go, oh, nothing is happening. Nothing is happening. And you are used to Tylenol working in 20 minutes. So you take another one, still another 20 minutes later and nothing is happening. You take that third one and then you are like not going anywhere for three days. So it's really starts low, at a low dose, go very slow, repeat. Only after a week or two, think about increasing doses. It's about finding homeostasis so you can go out into the world and be all balanced and make everyone around you balanced. How cool would that be?
BURG: That is... No, you are right.
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