Aside from smoking marijuana, some patients prefer to soak in it.
Sue Watson, who runs the Emerald Cross medical marijuana clinic in southwest Seattle, praised her cannabis-infused bubble bath.
"I smoke a quarter of an ounce a day and I never get stoned," she said. "I get in that bubble bath and it puts my whole body into a state of nirvana."
Watson extracts the psychoactive THC from cannabis to create sprays, tinctures and lotions: "It will actually stop bruising dead in its tracks," Watson said of her Emerald Rub. One patient healed his body-covering bleeding sores with an oral spray, she added.
Watson has been running the clinic for almost a decade. Cannabis helps treat the after-effects of her spinal cord injury and stroke.
"I take absolutely no pain pills or muscle relaxers," she said.
Another thing Watson has in common with most of the medical marijuana movement: Knowledge that often leads to activism. Watson speaks at rallies that can be watched on YouTube. She also co-wrote "The Feel-Good Cookbook: For Medical Marijuana Patients."
As a self-professed student of the plant, she lives free from paranoia, thanks in part to protection by Washington state law and the Seattle police, Watson said.
"I go to school on this every day," she said. "I'm always in search of new information."
Watson said the biggest obstacle to medical marijuana reform, aside from federal classification, is the lack of education.
"There's a lot of false information out there. People don't know how good it really is and how well it really works," she said. "I'm here to heal the world with marijuana."
Some patients see a business opportunity, not so much from selling marijuana, but from turning novice growers into master cultivators.
Armed with a degree in horticulture, a Federal Way patient sees the potential in helping others maximize their harvests.
"It's hit or miss. I rarely see high-quality grades of medical marijuana in Washington," said the 40-year-old Federal Way resident, who asked to remain anonymous.
He even claims to grow the best local cannabis, including a strain he calls "Couch Lock."
"You don't need $10,000 in equipment," he said. With knowledge of the cannabis light cycles, the novice grower can produce a quality supply with a basic setup that costs less than $1,000, he said. Cannabis requires nutrition similar to tomato plants, he said. A grow light with high ultraviolet output increases potency, while a high-pressure sodium light tends to increase the size of buds, he said. With 3,000 watts of growing power at his 3,000-square-foot house, his power bills are about $500 every two months.
While leafing through a medical marijuana magazine, he points to an advertisement for seeds from Canada. These mail-order seeds, despite their illegal status in the United States, have contributed to his success as a grower, he said. He has gained "access to a good gene pool" over the years by swapping seeds and plants with bikers or hippies, he said.
His current crop has yet to reach the flowering stages, but he is able to show off a different sample. He places an evergreen-colored bud about the size of a grape on the kitchen table. The bud, covered in white hairs, can be smelled from across the room.
With a few puffs of his homegrown high-quality cannabis, the resident can dull chronic pain from gout and rheumatory arthritis.
"The pain is so incredible, I'd rather take a bullet," he said, noting that he avoids prescription painkillers that "turn me into a zombie."
This patient fears thieves while praising the tolerance of local law enforcement, which confiscated all his plants one day last year, he said: "The Federal Way Police Department has been very nice to me and did a very responsible job in handling me."
Part 3 of this series touched on University of Washington student Sunil Aggarwal, who earned a Ph.D. in medical marijuana with a 395-page study.
Those who seek a simpler form of higher education can cough up a few hundred dollars for cannabis college.
"Bob," the Federal Way patient interviewed at the beginning of this series, completed a short stint at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif. The school and its nearby medical marijuana dispensaries have somewhat revived downtown Oakland after years of blight. Tourists and patients alike are drawn to the area's Amsterdam-inspired tolerance of cannabis culture.
In a weekend course, Bob learned about laws, rights, politics, cooking, bud tending and how to run a dispensary in California. Leftover among his thorough course literature are glossy postcards for Bay Area clinics as well as a catalog from "Oaksterdam Nursery," featuring strains called Blueberry, Hindu Skunk and Jack the Ripper. Each strain's photo includes a breakdown in type of effects, genetics, flowering time, height and growing environment.
However, some patients learn some lessons about medical marijuana on their own.
During his pre-medical marijuana days, Bob once served 5 and a half months in jail for growing marijuana.
"I broke the law. They got me," he said.
In hindsight, the jail sentence helped plant a seed, he said.
While in jail, Bob had access to few books and resorted to reading
the phone book out of boredom. Bob, who served in the U.S. Army,
found a listing that led to contact information for a VA attorney,
which eventually led to information about medical benefits to
treat severe body pain. He credits this Yellow Pages moment
for sending him on a path toward the medical marijuana movement.
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