INTERVIEW: Jason Cranford on Haleigh’s Hope, Colorado Medical Cannabis Laws, and the Realm of Caring Waiting List
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Jason Cranford is the founder and operator of the 501(c)3 HOPE Foundation in Colorado. He is the owner of Rifle Mountain, a Colorado dispensary chain, and the owner and founder of Cranford’s, America’s first Cannabis Cigarette company. Additionally, Jason works as a Colorado Licensed General Contractor specializing in the construction of cannabis cultivation facilities. He is also an outspoken patient advocate, and we are honored that he took time from his busy schedule to give a rare interview to Ladybud Magazine. Our candid discussion was a real eye-opener for me, shedding the light on information that is critical knowledge for every Colorado medical cannabis refugee as well as parents treating their epileptic children with CBD-rich cannabis or hemp products in Colorado or any other part of the US.
Vanessa Waltz: Can you tell us a little about your history in the Medical Cannabis movement?
Jason Cranford: I became involved in the Cannabis Industry in 2009. I have always loved this plant but saw its true medicinal healing properties in 2009 when I was approached by a father of a four year old terminal brain cancer patient. I donated 1:1 CBD:THC oil to the family, and the little girl lived and beat cancer. This changed me mentally and spiritually with my views on medicinal cannabis. It was never a hobby to me after this – it became a responsibility and a mission.
Currently, I live in Colorado but work nationwide, lobbying for whole plant legislation. I also consult in the production of pharmaceutical grade cannabis products in multiple states including Curaleaf in Connecticut.
VW: What are your thoughts about the current trend toward CBD-only legislation?
JC: My concern is the simple fact that CBD-only extracts only work on a small percentage of patients. The success stories are publicized but the failures are not. I feel this type of legislation is carefully crafted by hired lobbyists to create a monopoly situation through legislative sessions. There are a number of medical conditions that cannot be treated with CBD alone, but have shown tremendous response to a combination of different cannabanoid ratios.
VW: Why are so many families moving to Colorado to access CBD medicine when it’s legal in any Medical Marijuana state?
JC: The CNN documentaries that Sanjay Gupta did with the Realm of Caring (ROC) and the Stanley Brothers really spread a lot of awareness. It got the issue into the mainstream media and allowed parents to see that there’s an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.
It has become extremely difficult for parents to navigate the information and resources available to them today. I can only imagine having to sift through all of this information while simultaneously caring for an extremely ill child. Sometimes, I find that parents reach for whatever information and resources are most prominent in the media. This can have deleterious effects.
Some parents in non-medical states are using CBD products that are derived from hemp; these products that are being sold in all 50 states right now and are claiming to be medicine. However, the CBD in these products was derived from industrial hemp that’s not intended for human consumption – it’s supposed to be used for industrial hemp purposes. So there’s a weird legal situation going on with that and I don’t think it’s going to unfold nicely for the companies doing it.
VW: Do you believe that parents who are using these products for their children or buying it over the internet could be at legal risk?
VW: So how can parents separate these scams from legitimate products? What are some ways parents can connect with people who are able to provide CBD medication in Colorado or other legal states?
JC: For people all across the country, there are a few great networks online. Pediatric Cannabis Therapy (PCT) is a very valuable site. They also have a Facebook page that’s a closed group – you have to ask permission to get into it – but once you get in there are about 4000 members who are mostly patients and parents of pediatric patients. That facebook page and PCT’s website are great sources for locating Cannabidiol in multiple states.
Cannabis Oil Success Stories on Facebook is another great resource. It’s a closed group, but once you get on there you can ask questions about medicine.
I really trust the people who run these groups. They really know what’s going on behind the scenes with the whole industry, and are savvy to the MLM scams as well as the other issue of the Realm of Caring having a monopoly-type presence in the CBD market in Colorado.
VW: If people are thinking about moving to Colorado, can they contact you for help or advice? What about Colorado residents currently on the Realm of Caring/Charlotte’s Web waiting list who don’t want to wait 10 months?
JC: Yes, Colorado patients can contact HOPE Foundation, which is an educational organization that provides networking and connects patients with caregivers who can provide the exact type of medication they require. Many pediatric patients are seeking a 24:1 CBD:THC ratio similar to Charlotte’s Web, and we have caregivers who can cultivate those specific ratios, and other caregivers who cultivate higher THC ratios, as well as giving THCA tinctures out.
We also educate parents on how to become Colorado residents, how to make doctor’s appointments here, and how to get their red cards. Then we put them in touch with the caregivers that provide the medicine on a donated basis. They work on a sliding scale so the parents can pay what they can afford.
We try to operate like a true non-profit – nobody is left behind. If they only have a dollar to donate to us, that doesn’t mean they don’t get their medicine. We have certain people who can afford to donate money out of the kindness of their hearts because they’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed financially in life, where a lot of these seizure patients are tapped out with medical bills and one catastrophe after another. We try to get the people who are better off to help support the people who aren’t so lucky. And as a 501(c)3, people can get tax write-offs for donating to us as well.
We are also giving away CBD clones to Colorado patients and parents who show an interest in cultivating and creating medicine for their children.
VW: Who is Haleigh, and what is Haleigh’s Hope?
JC: Haleigh is a four year old girl who has Cerebral Palsy and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome which is a form of epilepsy. She and her mother have become refugees from the state of Georgia and have moved to Colorado to receive cannabis treatment. In two weeks she has gone from 200+ seizures a day to as few as 4 a day with the cannabanoid based medicine designed specifically for her. The strain the medicine was derived from was dedicated to her and was named Haleigh’s Hope.
This strain was bred over a four year period using hundreds of phenotypes of the highest CBD, lowest THC analytical reports form each breeding batch. The strain originally tested at 1:1 with 6% CBD and 6% THC. The last breading round produced a 24:1 CBD:THC ratio, which is Haleigh’s Hope.
VW: Have other people besides Haleigh used this strain?
JC: To date I have donated this medicine to around 100 patients who have received and used this product successfully.
VW: I know that a lot of parents on the Realm of Caring waiting list have been giving THCA extracts to their children; recently some parents have reported to us that there is a “THCA shortage.” Can you tell us what you know about this and about alternative sources for THCA?
JC: I don’t know this for certain, because I haven’t personally tried to get THCA oil from Realm of Caring or Indispensary myself, but I have heard several parents say that ROC told them they would have to get on a waiting list for THCA while they were also waiting for Charlotte’s Web – so the waiting list has another waiting list.
But this is really confusing to me because THCA is the most abundant cannabinoid on the planet! It’s in every single strain of cannabis anywhere – it’s the predominant cannabinoid in all cannabis plants. I can’t see how there would be a shortage of THCA, because every single jar of medicine in every single display case in every single dispensary is totally full of THCA. I don’t understand how there could be a waiting list for that when it’s the most prevalent cannabinoid in the state of Colorado.
I am making THCA tinctures for some patients, but I want the parents to able to be more reliant on themselves, and less reliant on any one provider. So lately I’ve been teaching parents how to make THCA tinctures on their own. That way, they can procure plant material from anywhere in the state, and the extraction process is as simple as using a crock pot. By learning the process, these parents can be self-reliant and not have to rely on other people or other providers or be on a waiting list somewhere. (See sidebar for Jason’s DIY THCA extract instructions).
THCA Tinctures are a little difficult to make because the oil is so highly viscous that’s it’s harder to work with compared to decarboxylated (active THC) oil. Decarboxylated oil is much more runny because the viscosity is much lower, so it flows easier. I think a lot of parents just don’t understand how the process works, but it’s really not too difficult to prepare yourself.
VW: Can you tell us about the currently pending legislation in Colorado that will restrict caregivers and individuals who are growing medicinally?
JC: Yes, it’s caused quite an uproar here. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is trying to put a cap on caregivers.
Right now, the state of Colorado allows 5 patients for each caregiver unless you get a waiver and explain to them the reason you need to serve more than 5 patients. I have more than 5 patients, and I’ve filled out all the waivers. If this legislation goes into effect, the waiver program will be discontinued and no caregiver will be able to have more than 5 patients.
Also, every person in Colorado gets a 6-plant plant count, unless you have a medical reason that requires you to have more plants. The seizure-based disorders require infused products, and to make enough infused products, you have to more than 6 plants. Even though 6 plants is not enough for many patients, now the CDPHE is trying to say now that all caregivers will have a maximum 30 plants for their 5 patients.
In my opinion, that’s a direct violation of the Colorado Constitution Amendment 20, because the Constitution says “whatever’s medically necessary” and it’s up to the doctor and the caregiver and the patient to determine that amount. The CDPHE is even going beyond that and trying to further limit the caregivers by saying that caregivers aren’t even going to be allowed to provide extracts any more.
The CDPHE says it’s a regulatory problem, where caregivers are growing too much and sending it out of state, but I believe it’s more a money issue because caregivers don’t pay sales tax to the state like dispensaries do. So if they box the caregivers up into little tiny boxes, it’s going to push all the patients into dispensaries so the state can collect more sales tax.
JC: Yes, there are limits. There’s no limit on the number of patients – they can serve as many patients as they want – but they are limited in the number of plants since a doctor recommends how many plants should be assigned to each patient. For example, I’ve seen a lot of reports from former Realm of Caring patients when they come to me to do a change of caregiver form. On all these recommendations I’m seeing from Dr. Gedde (who works with ROC), each patient is assigned 12 plants. A dispensary can only grow the number of plants assigned to the specific patients who have designated them as caregiver.
VW: I’m a little confused…Patients can go to Colorado and get their red cards and go to any dispensary and get medicine, right? So how do those dispensaries maintain their plant counts when any patient with a red card can walk in any day and want to make a purchase?
JC: It’s a little confusing. Most of the dispensaries here have membership discount prices – so patients will assign a certain dispensary to be their “caregiver” to get discounted meds from that dispensary. But patients are still free to shop at any dispensary in the state, though only one dispensary can actually grow plants for an individual patient.
VW: So are the dispensaries allowed to grow some number of plants above and beyond the plant count from patients who have registered with them?
JC: No, absolutely not. We have radiofrequency tags that are registered to each patient, and those tags must be on each growing plant. If you get an inspection and some of the plants aren’t tagged, the state will chop them down. The state can count your plants with a hand-scanner radiofrequency device, so if you’re over your plant count, they’ll chop down your surplus plants.
Every time a dispensary sells medicine to someone who doesn’t have that dispensary listed as their caregiver, they’re actually selling somebody else’s medicine to that patient.
VW: Is that why Realm of Caring has a waiting list?
JC: Not exactly. To clarify, Realm of Caring does not grow plants for anybody – Realm of Caring is a non-profit, and Indispensary is actually growing all the plants for Realm of Caring. Realm of Caring sends patients over to Indispensary, and Indispensary does all the legal job with the plants – the caregiver sign-ups, etc.
My question has always been, if there’s a waiting list that’s 10 months long for patients to get their meds, and Realm of Caring requires Dr. Gedde to sign each patient’s caregiver up as Indispensary, this means that on that day, Indispensary can start cultivating their plants. The plant’s grow cycle is roughly three months, so in a 10-month period, Realm of Caring would be able to harvest that particular waiting-list-patient’s plants 3 times before the patient ever gets their medicine. I don’t understand how they could grow those plants and harvest them 3 times in 10 months while these patients are still waiting to get their medicine. The math doesn’t add up.
According to my math, when each waiting list patient is waiting, you’re looking at 72 ounces of medicine that could be harvested using that patient’s tags. Indispensary sells ounces for around $150. So multiply 72 ounces by $150, and basically, they’re making $10,800 off of each patient before they ever even give them any medicine.
VW: So you think Indispensary using those grow tags to grow 3 rounds of easy-to-grow, high-THC plants and selling them while the kids on the waiting list suffer?
JC: Knowing how the dispensary model works in this state, that’s what it looks like to me.
VW: I visited the Stanley’s grow facility last year and was struck by the unusual appearance of the Charlotte’s Web plants – they don’t even really look like Cannabis to me. The photo you showed me of the CBD-rich strain you are growing is also very unusual looking and looks very similar to Charlotte’s Web. Do these CBD-rich strains have a lower yield than your average high-THC cannabis plant, and are you finding them more difficult to cultivate?
JC: The yields are slightly lower, but it depends more on your growing technique. If you get in a rush to start flowering your plants, your yield is hugely diminished. If you leave the plants in a vegetative state for a few months, your yield can be 3 times higher than if you just vegged them for a couple weeks. But even if the Stanleys are using a 5-month grow cycle for Charlotte’s Web, they could still have 2 harvests before a patient on the 10-month waiting list got medicine.
VW: I’m glad to know that there are other alternatives becoming available for CBD-rich medicine. What are your plans for the future?
JC: My plans are to further expand HOPE Foundation and continue to donate cannabis derived medicines to patients in need. This expansion will include controlled clinical testing of specific cannabinoids and their efficacy with individual medical conditions.
VW: Last but not least, what are your thoughts on adult recreational use of Cannabis?
JC: I feel that cannabis is safer and less harmful than alcohol and the decision to utilize it recreationally should be left to adults and their state representatives.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the interviewee’s and not explicitly those of Ladybud Magazine