April Fairfield didn’t always believe in the healing powers of cannabis. In fact, her mindset on the subject was shaped by the war on drugs, pushing a sense of fear based in misinformation.
Nowadays, the co-founder of Canna Med Show is one of the biggest proponents for medical cannabis in the commonwealth, and Pocono Canna Fest — scheduled for this weekend at the West End Fairgrounds — is set to be the company’s largest event yet.
It all started with the help of “Weed the People,” an award-winning documentary by Abby Epstein that showed how marijuana and the cannabinoids found within the plant could be used in the treatment of rare pediatric tumors.
Fairfield found the film to be eye-opening, though conversely, she noted it was “absolutely ludicrous and entirely inhumane to prohibit lifesaving treatments solely based on an individual’s home state.”
With a changed perception on marijuana and hemp, Fairfield and her partner Joel Koehler have set out on a mission to spread the word about the capabilities of cannabis.
“In January 2022 we began the work of setting up our new business Canna Med Show. We wanted to educate people on new trends in the cannabis industry and also help to normalize the use of medical marijuana by tearing down the misconceptions,” Fairfield said.
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According to Drexel University’s Medical Cannabis Research Center, patients in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program — which was legalized in April 2016 and set into motion in February 2018 — used cannabis products “most frequently for pain relief, to fight nausea and increase appetite, and for psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.”
“A systematic review of the evidence for and against the effectiveness of medical cannabis found evidence to support the use of cannabis for chronic pain, nausea, multiple sclerosis, and insomnia,” the Medical Cannabis Research Center notes on its website.
Despite the modern renaissance of marijuana research into a vast array of medical issues both physical and mental, old habits die hard, and many people remain misinformed on the subject. But that hasn’t stopped Canna Med Show; if anything, it has only strengthened their resolve.
“The stigma and prejudice associated with CBD and cannabis created multiple business challenges. Merchant account providers often will not do business with the cannabis industry and many marketing agencies have refused our business,” Fairfield said. “Although the hurdles often seemed insurmountable, we persevered with our efforts to bring alternative health education options to the general public in a fun and engaging atmosphere.”
Fairfield noted that many individuals fail to recognize the difference in marijuana and hemp, which creates a lofty sense of confusion when it comes to discussing the issue. While the two plants are closely related, there are key differences that set them apart.
“Marijuana is cultivated because of its production of the psychoactive plant chemical delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Hemp is cultivated for fiber, seed and floral extracts, and federal and state law requires that the concentration of THC must be less than 0.3% in hemp,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s website reads.
More:Cannabis and the commonwealth: Politicians, entrepreneurs weigh in on recreational pot in Pa.
The National Hispanic Cannabis Council notes that “tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis,” and that it is useful in treating inflammation and pain. On the other hand, “cannabidiol, or CBD, is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid famed for significantly reducing symptoms in patients suffering from seizure and spasm disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.”
These are just two of the numerous cannabinoids that have been shown to be effective in treating a plethora of medical issues, and while the concepts may confuse some patients, efforts to educate the masses, such as Pocono Canna Fest, have had some success.
In the pursuit of the lofty goal to change the public’s perception on the subject of CBD and THC, Canna Med Show has collected an array of medical marijuana dispensaries, doctors who advocate for the use of cannabis, vendors looking for an outlet for their canna-products and entertainers to provide the people with mind-expanding information.
This weekend, Pocono Canna Fest will feature multiple medical marijuana dispensaries, over 150 vendors, glass blowing demonstrations, goat yoga, specialty foods and more. According to Fairfield, Pocono Canna Fest will be Canna Med Show’s largest event yet.
Terrapin, a company which offers a range of cannabis-derived products throughout Pennsylvania, Colorado and Michigan, will serve as the main event sponsor for the weekend.
“It’s a brand that folks in the community know, and obviously we wanted to take part in this festival to share our commitment to accessible cannabis education, healing and alternative medicine,” Peter Marcus, vice president of communications for Terrapin, said, noting that his company’s products are available in about 97% of the commonwealth’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
Since coming to the Pennsylvania market four years ago, Terrapin and its employees have witnessed significant growth across the landscape, with plenty of patients opting to try out CBD and THC treatments in lieu of manufactured pharmaceuticals.
“We’ve seen the industry evolve, we’ve seen the industry grow,” Marcus said. “The industry has done a pretty good job of keeping up with the evolution and the trends, one being specific to medical cannabis, just how many older Americans were seeing want to try it as an alternative to topical pain meds or prescription pain medication.”
Marcus said that he looks forward to a future of studies in the field of medical marijuana and hemp, which could lead to strains and products that are even more effective when it comes to treating particular issues.
“I think over the next couple of years, you will start to see studies coming out with insights and knowledge into how CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system,” Marcus said. “And I think that’s going to fuel even greater progress and new formulations and new products with a greater understanding of how this medicine works.”
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Thus far, Fairfield said she has seen some surprising success stories when it comes to skeptical patients dipping their toes in the medical cannabis waters for the first time, and she hopes that this weekend’s festival will help to convert some people to explore the world of cannabinoids.
“When someone shows up — and we’ve had people in their late 60s and 70s showing up — I’ll just greet them and take them to a very knowledgeable vendor, like one of the medical professionals. We have a pharmacist who comes to every show, we have a doctor, sometimes several doctors, come to every show. So I think after they speak to licensed medical professionals, they feel a lot better about it,” Fairfield said.
Canna Med Show has three more festivals scheduled throughout Pennsylvania for the future, with the possibility of even more events. With a growing interest in the field of medical cannabis and cannabinoids in general, people like Fairfield, Koehler and Marcus hope to open the doors to a whole new world of possibilities for patients.
“I mean, I’ve experienced that in my own life. I can think back to high school; my mom, who would kick my butt if she knew that I was consuming cannabis, now she’s reaching out with questions about different topicals and treatments that can help her,” Marcus said with a laugh.