I was sitting on the sofa in an outer suburban home with a dog that looked more nervous than me. I was assured that two doses of cold cannabis tincture would rid me of my anxiety within 30 seconds. A man put two drops beneath my tongue and we waited.
The man behind the potion—let’s call him Gary—is an energetic and charming conspiracy loon, as people tend to be when they believe society veils facts to prohibit certain enterprises. Last year, Gary was accused of growing cannabis in his vegetable patch, so he took the government head-on and was eventually fined $1,000. Despite this, he still makes tinctures for sick patients across the country.
Cold cannabis tinctures are arguably the most unpopular yet underrated method of dosing weed. They're basically non-psychoactive weed-infused oils, but with high amounts of THCA—a molecule that contains a variety of health benefits. Tinctures are purportedly anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-emetic, which means they calm your urge to vomit. And they come with very few of the usual weedy negatives such as paranoia and psychosis.
Weirdly, about an hour later, I did feel relieved and calm. The tinctures had suspended the angst from my coffee overdose and I relaxed into the conversation with Gary. We talked about why he does what he does, how he (mostly) avoids police intervention, and what the future holds for his small business.
VICE: So Gary, how’d you get into this line of work?
Gary: Some friends of ours have some very sick children. I was reading various studies that suggested THCA worked very well for epileptic kids. So, I decided to play with the chemistry—a field I’ve been obsessed with all my life. When I realised how to do it, I did some research and found that a lot of the cold tinctures were being made with ethanol which produces this ethanol mixture that’s really bad for kids. It would burn their mouths and it’s some really horrible shit.
We found that people had moved away from the ethanol and started using MCT, coconut oil, and olive oil, but I found problems in doing that because any pathogens on the plant causes the olive oil to go rancid very quickly, and when they turn, they become toxic and dangerous. But glycerol doesn’t have that problem, while chemically it will extract cannabinoid acids just as effectively. So, I used this method because it serves as its own preservative. So I tried it out and the results were phenomenal.
What did you find?
The most amazing results we’re having with the cold tinctures is with MS patients. Almost total pain relief, and a reversal of their symptoms. They’re getting sensations back in their arms and legs. Being able to walk instead of being in a wheelchair. We tried cold and hot but the cold tinctures made the most difference.
What’s the difference between a hot and cold tincture?
Well the hot tinctures contain the psychoactive properties, and the cold tinctures don’t. But by using a combination of a cold and hot tincture you get the benefits that come from the THC without feeling stoned. It can actually shut the stoned feeling down completely and bring about complete clarity even though you have massive amounts of THC in your system. Because it brings you back to balance.
How do you know what to prescribe?
It comes down to the individual, basically what you’re looking for is the dose that’s right for the person to remove all their symptoms and get them well. Now that varies from person to person. It’s a holistic approach. And you’ve got to get the diet right. The human body is like a computer in some respects, put garbage in and you'll put garbage out. You are what you eat.
How much do you charge?
We’re on a donation system. Most of our patients will chuck us $50 to help us cover costs but we don’t ask for it. There’s a little bit in that for my labour but that’s nothing compared to what the black-market charge, which is around $600. And the government want $3,000 a month. So, who’s the biggest criminal of the lot?
How many people are you helping in total?
We are probably helping about 200 people all up, but because a bottle will last a month or two months we don’t see them very often. I’m not up for much. I’m a pensioner just trying to help people the best I can, but can’t keep up with the demand. I’ve had to turn really sick people away and tell them to go talk with the politicians because that’s where we're at.
There’s at least 100,000 people in Australia using cannabis meds. At least. That’s based on what I’ve seen first-hand, the phone calls we receive, the phone calls various other compassion clubs receive. And what have the government done, given access to 150? That’s not what I call adequate provisions for the relief of pain and suffering, which is what they’re required to do under international law. It’s not for bureaucrats in the health department to decide what’s good for the patient.
Just give us a license and let us do what we already know how to do. And the proof will be there in a heartbeat. Anyone with experience with cold tinctures knows it makes a difference within 30 seconds. Anyone with pain, who uses the hot tincture knows that it works within a minute. It won’t take long for a trial, I'll sort it out in about an hour and a half.
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