47 | Abbie Rosner, Cannabis Journalist

“I was appalled to see what was going on with the pharmaceutical industry and how they… were trying to kind of convince people that they could be sick with some disease or another just so they could sell pills and medications… I thought that that was just a kind of a gross perversion of capitalism, you know, to just to convince people that you’re sick so you can make money and then give them pills that will make them even sicker.”

— Abbie Rosner

It’s been a long, strange trip since the 1960s, when baby boomers were befriending marijuana — now better known as cannabis. We’ve learned a lot in the intervening decades, and journalist Abbie Rosner is bringing that knowledge to the boomers who’ve been away from cannabis all these years. There’s lots to talk about, from ongoing scientific research into cannabis, to applications for Alzheimer’s, the reduction of social stigma around cannabis use, and more.  

Kannaboomers (00:00): It's Tom. Yes, I am a baby boomer and part of that generation that grew up with Cheech and Chong and stoners and High Times magazine and all that stuff. Of course, we know there's a lot more to the plant than that right now and that's why today's guest is Abbie Rosner. She writes for Forbes and other media outlets. She's working on a book with Dr. Ben Kaplan, who we've had on the show before, a very knowledgeable duo. So we're looking forward to that book. But in this interview we go over many of the things that are happening right now about how cannabis really is a legit medicine and I think you'll enjoy it. Thanks to Danny in Milwaukee for production and making us sound good and I hope you're safe and sound and ready for summer once we can get outside.

Kannaboomers (00:43): This is, Let's Talk About Weed, the Kannaboomers Podcast: CBD, microdosing and all things related to medical cannabis, for baby boomers. From San Diego. Here's your host, Thomas J.

Kannaboomers (00:56): It's Tom. Welcome back to the Kannaboomers podcast. This week we have journalist Abbie Rosner. How are you? Happy.

Abbie Rosner (01:02): I'm great. How are you?

Kannaboomers (01:03): Really good. We're kind of making our way through the pandemic. I always like to talk with journalists. I began as a journalist and worked for some newspapers in Southern California. You're writing for Forbes and for other media outlets and somehow you found cannabis and kind of made that your beat. How did that come about?

Abbie Rosner (01:21): Well, I've been a writer for many years. I'm, I'm a Kannaboomer myself and I have been working as a freelance writer for decades. And for a long time I lived in Israel and at that time I became very interested in traditional food ways and I particularly was interested in foraging and seeing how the local Palestinian and other Bedouin Arab communities were were sustaining themselves in large part, well actually kind of peripherally, but with these indigenous local foods, local plants. And so to me, this relationship that you could have with local plants as a kind of a gift from nature was very compelling to me. And as I started to, to really sharpen my focus on the kind of plants that nature provides I found that it was, it just was, it opened up a whole new world of and made me feel like it's very worthwhile to pay attention to plants and what they can do for us. So after, after that, the transition to cannabis was kind of a natural one

Kannaboomers (02:47): That is interesting, you know, from just sort of subsistence type farming like backyard gardens and stuff? Are you talking about?

Abbie Rosner (02:56): Well, actually what I was seeing was that in these communities I was living in the Galilee and in these communities of, of you know, there was farmers and pastoralists, the going out into the fields and just being able to see what's growing wild and what can be nutritious and abundant foods for your family was, was you know, a skill that was part of a living culture. And I was very interested in learning about that. So that's, that's really what I'm talking about.

Kannaboomers (03:33): Sure. It's timeless. It's an ancient knowledge that's passed down. And of course, if you're a student of cannabis, you know that the Israelis have been far ahead of the rest of the world. Raphael Meshulum is kind of THE scientist in cannabis, right? And he's still doing his thing over in Israel.

Abbie Rosner (03:49): Oh, well he is definitely one of them. And I think that that being introduced to, or being exposed to his work was really the, you know, the, the 'aha' moment for me when I understood that, that people and the cannabis plant people and animals in the cannabis plant have this very intrinsic symbiotic relationship and how cannabis has, has so many ways that it can enhance our wellbeing and health. And so that was from learning about professor Meshulum's work, identifying the endocannabinoid system. So that definitely got me started, but there was certainly a lot of work coming out of Israel and the cannabis space and some of it's very very groundbreaking.

Kannaboomers (04:39): So having lived over there, what can you tell us about the level of stigma? Is it less over there then than in the U.S.

Abbie Rosner (04:46): Well, I think, you know, Israel didn't experience the whole war on drug things experience, but but they, they are, is, it is a traditional society and there's a lot of, of concern and suspicion over drugs and, but it's, I think they're more, they're much more open than in the United States. I'd say the stigma isn't so bad. And I think that probably the most salient aspect of it is that they, I think the government recognizes that there's a lot of financial potential in developing the cannabis research space and also the biotech area. So there are, the Israeli government actually encourages and, and provides in financial incentives for, for startups in the cannabis space.

Kannaboomers (05:45): When you think about it, cannabis has applications for almost everyone. As you, as you mentioned, we all have an endocannabinoid system. And because of Dr. Meshulum's work and others, we now understand you don't have to get high if you don't want to. There's a lot of cannabinoids that have different properties that are anti-inflammatory and many other things that are beneficial. Right. So as the research continues in Israel and in the U.S. Do you see the stigma abating and do you see legalization coming closer?

Abbie Rosner (06:16): Um I think in Israel there, you know, they have had a medical cannabis program for a long time and I think that in terms of legalization in the United States, well maybe, maybe the breakthroughs that come out of Israel will contribute to changing attitudes here in the United States. You know, it's a tough nut here to crack for so many reasons, but what are the interests? One of the more interesting researchers who's working in Israel and who I hope to be writing about soon is professor David Meiri at the Technion and he's, he's done work, a lot of work, really groundbreaking research on cancer and looking at the different cannabinoids and for and, and to see what, how they're effective for different types of cancers. And you know, he, this is a wide open area and he is, it's just a huge undertaking, because there are sensitivities to the different combinations of cannabinoids for different types of cancer or it's, it's just really staggering. But I heard him speak the other day and he was talking about the interviewer asked him what he was excited about or what was the most interesting for him. And he said, Oh, I'm just really excited about the work on things like neurodegenerative diseases and Alzheimer's. And so of course, you know, my ears perked up immediately because, you know, these are the conditions for the population that I'm most interested in, which is baby boomers in the elderly. And so I do plan on hopefully interviewing him about that and just digging a little further to get his insights on why he is excited about that area. So that should be an article hopefully that I'll, I'll have in the coming weeks.

Kannaboomers (08:12): Yeah. Well, there's definitely a lot of interest in it, my listeners probably know in my family, I've had Alzheimer's, well, I haven't yet, but my mom had it. And unfortunately passed away from it. And I have direct experience in that world where there's so many pharmaceutical agents that are prescribed. And a lot of times they don't seem to do any, any good. So the utility of something that's organic and nontoxic and it doesn't have that side effect profile and could possibly give some relief is really exciting.

Abbie Rosner (08:43): Well, I've, I've had you know, I've, I've explored this issue with, with a number of different people. And really I started, I think one of the first conversations was with a family member who, who just was distraught overseeing his father, who had, you know, had once been a, you know the family patriarch and was now really suffering from terrible agitation and sleeplessness with dementia. And, you know, the facility he was in was given, they just were trying so many different drugs and, and nothing was helping him. And finally, one of the grandchildren brought in a cannabis gummy and gave it to their grandfather. And he just, for the first night, for the first time in years, he had a good night's sleep. The next day was communicative. And the family was so moved that they decided to fund research on using cannabis to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia. But, so that's on one, one side of the spectrum. That's, you know, when this is in the scientific realm. But I mean, and this was on the East coast, this was in the Boston area. Now on the West coast. There I was in conversations with Dr. Jeffrey Hergenrother who, who used to be the head of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. And he had extensive experience, real, real life experience helping patients in nursing homes in Northern California to control their you know, the same issue of agitation in dementia patients. And he had very, very good results with that. So it's, you know, there on the one hand, there are people that are really waiting to see the research on the safety and efficacy and you know, before they can make any decisions. And on the other hand, there, there was the real life experience of people like Dr. Hergenrother. So I think that complicating the issue is the problem of allowing cannabis into facilities that receive federal funding. And if, if, if a nursing home is getting Medicare funding, they're not going to want to endanger that by introducing a schedule one substance. And so that's a real impediment to giving access to people who really could benefit from, from cannabinoid medications. But there are some institutions, some really pioneering institutions I can think of more life in Florida and the the Hebrew home in Riverdale, New York, where the directors are just saying, well, we're going to take, you know, we're going to work, we're going to figure out a way to make this work so our residents can access cannabis and they're, they're actually paving the way. So I find that very exciting.

Kannaboomers (11:53): It's another sort of hangover of the war on drugs and you know, we are all looking forward to the post-prohibition era, but there are going to be effects as we move towards undoing some of that stuff. I mean, thank heavens for gummies that you could smuggle in a gummy.

Abbie Rosner (12:08): Right. Exactly. Exactly. And I think that, I think that, you know, when we, when we think of the co, the war on drugs, I think that these, these older older dementia patients are just really tragic collateral damage of that war when they could benefit so nicely from something that you know, that that doesn't have the black box mornings that these, these anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety drugs that, that are so routinely administered to them. You know, and here's something that's safe and well tolerated with, with minimal side effects certainly compared to the, to the drugs that are, that are being administered and they are just deprived of that because of this lingering stigma and the Schedule One classification.

Kannaboomers (13:01): Well and eventually the clinical trials will catch up with it and it won't, we won't be relying just on anecdotal evidence, there will be real studies that you can point to and say, here, here's a safe and efficacious medicine that does not have these toxic side effects and is actually effective.

Abbie Rosner (13:17): Well there is, there is some there is some research coming out of Israel that's already, you know, already been done. But the medical establishment here in the United States has never pointed to really look at those studies. But we'll, you know, they're, they're always too small and they're not randomized control trials. It's, it's we still have a ways to go, I would say.

Kannaboomers (13:38): Sure. I mean the medical schools have to begin to put it into the curriculum.

Abbie Rosner (13:43): There is a long learning curve, a steep learning curve, let's say.

Kannaboomers (13:48): So that's an interesting path that you talked about at the beginning from food and cuisine and just the knowledge of plant-based nutrition that led you into cannabis. Do you also have an interest in psychedelics?

Abbie Rosner (14:00): Oh, well I actually, I, I'm, I am venturing into that as well. I think, you know, again, if there was, I think that the plant world not only can sustain us in our body, but also in our spirit and psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca, these are our, our gifts from nature to, to help us to, to, to grow and heal spiritually. So again, my interest is for older adults, so I'm looking at these medications or these, these substances. And the derivatives that, that so many startups are working on with these substances to, you know, to synthesize them and expand and, and, and you know, to, to adjust the molecules in ways that they can be, you know, commercialized. But I look at those efforts in ways that they can benefit older adults, particularly for the poor, let's see, the mental health issues like anxiety over end of life for example. But I've also actually written about one startup called Elusiveness, which is working on a form of LSD for treating Alzheimer's. And so there's a lot of promising work in this space even further for treating chronic pain and pain. So that's, these are these, I think it's a very exciting developing area and I'm following it closely.

Kannaboomers (15:41): Well, and it's a really interesting beat for, for you as a journalist and writer. I mean, I'm crossing the threshold into my sixties pretty soon. And we all had experienced it, I shouldn't say all, but some of the hallucinogens in cannabis itself were sort of party drugs back in our youth. And now here we are, decades later going, Hey, there's medicinal properties to these that could really help alleviate suffering, right?

Abbie Rosner (16:08): Well, I'm actually, I didn't mention it before, but I'm working on a book right now that's going to be a guide for baby boomers about cannabis and looking at it as a way to really revolutionize the way that we are aging. And I think that if baby boomers revolutionized youth and the way that we came to we created a new way to, to be young that was cool and hip and, and, and just broke all the rules. I think that now as we're aging and we're looking, because the baby boomers now, we're not elderly yet, but we can see it around the bend. And I think a lot of us are saying, you know, I don't want to get old the way my parents got old. I don't want to end my life in that way. Just, you know, taking all these drugs and just, you know, hanging on for, you know, to, to extend my life, you know, at all costs. I'd rather have a quality of life. And I think that when you start to do that, that you have those thoughts, cannabis can actually come in and be very, very helpful, not only for the physical challenges of getting all of the chronic pain and the, you know, the insomnia, all those things cannabis can help with. But I think also when we, when at the end, as we've lived these long lives and our thinking gets, tends to get a little rigid, cannabis is an opportunity to open up a little bit to, you know, to take a different perspective to also to relate to our bodies in a different way, maybe to, you know, to reestablish relationship with our, our physicality. If it's dancing, if it's, you know, sexual intimacy, all these things are, are, are possibilities that cannabis can enhance. So I think that you know, that cannabis can have a huge role to play in a new kind of aging and this is what I'm going to be writing about in this book.

Kannaboomers (18:18): That's amazing. We'll definitely be looking for that when it comes out. Do you have a title yet or is it a work in progress?

Abbie Rosner (18:24): I have a provisional title. We're still, we're still looking for a publisher. So...

Kannaboomers (18:30): Boy, I like the thesis though. I mean in a way baby boomers, we made a cult of our own youth and here we are decades later with this old acquaintance myself, you know, I definitely in college experimented a lot, maybe did some waking and baking, but once I entered the work world, I put cannabis aside for decades. I didn't touch it, but a lot of us maybe alcohol is your social lubricant of choice and after awhile you go, you know, maybe I've had enough of that.

Abbie Rosner (18:59): Right, right. Well, I think that that model, you know, it's interesting that there's a cannabis marketing firm or a data analysis firm that talked about boomerangs. Those are, you know, baby boomers that like you and like me that, you know, we smoked pot in college and then we, you know, when we got married and had kids, we stopped for decades and now we're rediscovering this old friend, you know, that we're a little nervous about it. Used to make us really paranoid. We don't want to, you know, an owner feel that paranoia again. And you know, and yes, we've heard that it's really strong now and we have to be really careful and you know, it's really dangerous and, and we're starting to say, well, wait a minute, maybe, you know, maybe it's not so dangerous and maybe it is worth exploring. And that's really what I hope to do with my writing to help people understand that they don't, if it's worth exploring, it's not for everybody. Some people won't like it, some people it's not going to help. But it's definitely worth a try if it's not something to be afraid of.

Kannaboomers (20:05): Right. Do you find acceptance of that? I mean, you know, I use a CBD balm on my knees and if I do think I'm going to have insomnia, sometimes if I have a a day of anxiety, I'll take a half a gummy, like a five milligram indica gummy and I sleep really well. I know I'm not taking Ambien or something, so I'm, I wake up refreshed and I know I'm not gonna risk being addicted to it. All the other little applications like that, do you find that more boomers are returning to those sorts of uses?

Abbie Rosner (20:35): Well, I think that you know, I'm working on my book with a coauthor, Dr. Benjamin Kaplan out of Boston and he has, you know, just a wealth of experience with many different patients and many baby boomers being the old and older adults and they come to him with, with concerns. But I think, you know, many of them say, you know, they don't want to get high. They're afraid that they, you know, just don't want to feel any kind of intoxication. And, and I think that, you know, he helps them understand that, that a, that that's definitely achievable. And also I think it helps them to understand that they may not want to get high, but if their mood is enhanced, that's, it's probably not such a bad thing.

Kannaboomers (21:28): And you can kind of dial in the effects. I mean, we know more now about the various cannabinoids about the terpenes, you know, about using a dry vaporizer and dialing in the temperature so you're not incinerating the whole flower at once. You can be a lot more discrete in the effects you're getting. You can choose a cultivar that might work for this purpose.

Abbie Rosner (21:49): Right. Well, I think that you know, to go back to this book that we're working on, I think that the cannabis world has changed dramatically since our youth. And it's confusing. You know, you're talking about a dry vaporizer that you can adjust the temperature on. I know what you're talking about, but a lot of people don't. They don't, you know, they just know about smoking a joint or a bong. Right. And so, so there's a lot to explain here about terpenes, what's a terpene? You know, what, why is, why does that matter? And I think that that's, you know, that there's really the, our idea to, to come up with this book just came out of this tremendous need for just really reliable information that's tailored for for baby boomers that, you know, that have some, they have, they're not complete strangers to the plant, but they've just have, haven't kept up with all the advances that have happened in the, you know, in the interim decades since they were familiar with it.

Kannaboomers (22:55): Well, we've had Dr. Kaplan on the show and he is so knowledgeable and he's very accessible and he has a way of kind of breaking it down and he's prolific. He puts out a lot of content himself. So you have a great partner there to write a book. A great collaborator.

Abbie Rosner (23:10): I'm fortunate. I know we are working well together.

Kannaboomers (23:14): It is interesting. There are so many complexities. It's almost like a sommelier can taste a wine and tell you where it came from. And there's so many subtleties. And again, we often talk about tests and learn. You know, we're bringing our own genetics to this plant that has very different genetics and maybe within the same plant or even on the same bud, the flower from the tip of the buds is going to be different from at the base of the bud. So there's all sorts of complexity to this. It's like a 3-D matrix and there's so many different variables. So it's a big job to simplify it.

Abbie Rosner (23:51): Right? And I think that there are going to be people who, who just, you know, just rebel in that the variety and be you know, all the different options and possibilities, like going into an incredibly well-stocked wine store, you know, just all the different chemovars of, of cannabis and, and therapies and profiles and, you know, and then there were other people that will say, 'No, no, I don't want that. I want to know that my medicine that I'm taking is going to be the same today, tomorrow, and in a year from now.' And happily, there are solutions for both people, both kinds of people.

Kannaboomers (24:28): There's going to be casual users and then there's going to be geeks who want to know everything about the cultivar or the chemo type or yeah. And everything in between.

Abbie Rosner (24:36): Right. So I think it, you know, there's so much information, it's very, very complex as we know. Everybody who's, who's dealing in this industry knows that there are so many aspects to it. And it's so it's a challenge to, to spill it all out in nice, accessible terms. And so that's, that's my challenge as a writer.

Kannaboomers (25:01): Given all that complexity and the overall context of this, what parts of it really excite you when you look at the whole scope of cannabis and plant-based medicine itself?

Abbie Rosner (25:10): Well, this goes back to my time in Israel. I lived there for 30 years. You know, I grew up in the United States and so a big formative chunk of my life was spent overseas. And when I came back five years ago, I was appalled to see what was going on with the pharmaceutical industry and how they had just kind of taken over. So much of it seemed like the psyche of the American people or a large part of it, they were trying to, to just to kind of convince people that they could be sick with some disease or another just so they could sell pills and medications. And I thought that, you know, I, I thought that that was just a kind of a gross perversion of capitalism, you know, to just to convince people that you're sick so you can make money and, and then give them pills that will make them even sicker. So I'm excited to really give voice to an alternative that's more natural and, and less, less damaging.

Kannaboomers (26:19): Right. There's marketing right. And you can't watch the evening news without seeing ads for wow, restless leg syndrome or what have you. As you say, it's almost like they're looking for conditions and then it's mind blowing. Not to mention the whole opioid fiasco that has been lethal for many people.

Abbie Rosner (26:38): Exactly. It's just a moral crime.

Kannaboomers (26:41): Yeah. To spend our dollars on the anti-cannabis measures for decades and decades and then allow the pharma companies to run rampant, just shoveling opioids out. It's mind boggling.

Abbie Rosner (26:53): Right? And I think that it, you know, our current pandemic is really underscoring that the, you know, that the, the healthcare system that, you know, we've come to, to place so much trust in and so much you know, to rely so much upon is really not necessarily so reliable and that maybe we better consider other options that are more in our control. I mean, you can grow a cannabis plant in your backyard or in your closet for that matter.

Kannaboomers (27:28): Part of the culture of the plant too. I mean, there's the whole hippie-dippie 60s, 70s aspect and now is, as it's realized as a cash crop that is going to make money, there's a business class that's coming in. So these are interesting times for somebody on this beat for sure.

Abbie Rosner (27:45): Yeah. Well, you know, I consider myself very fortunate to be able to write about something that I feel so passionate about and I find so fascinating. So yeah, I'm, I'm actually really feeling very fortunate and grateful to that.

Kannaboomers (28:04): So I've seen your byline at Forbes, so there are other places we should look for you.

Abbie Rosner (28:09): Well, I have written for Energy Retailer magazine and I've worked for Next Avenue, which is a Public Broadcasting website for older adults. So I've written for them, but I'm really focusing now on the book. So I, I'm, I'm keeping the Forbes thing going, but I'm, I'm really trying to work on the book.

Kannaboomers (28:36): We'll keep an eye out for that. I just am so thrilled to see your byline anytime I see it because I know it's going to be an interesting story. You've broken a lot of great stories in just the last six months, so keep up the good work.

Abbie Rosner (28:49): Well, thank you so much. I'm always happy when, you know, when you're, you know, as a writer, you sit in your little office and you, you know, you right away and you're just all by yourself, and so you never really know are people reading it? Are they enjoying it? And, and so it's always good to get some feedback.

Kannaboomers (29:08): Yeah, I'm happy to retweet your stuff because as I said, it's always kind of in the strike zone for me. I mean, you've done stuff on Alzheimer's and on psychedelics and a lot of other aspects. So where should we look for you online?

Abbie Rosner (29:22): Abbie Rosner, forbes.com, I have an author page. All you have to do is Google, Forbes, Abbie Rosner. I also have a website which I try to keep current with my latest clips, but I don't always, I'm not always so good about that. But when, when the, when there's, when there's news about the book, you'll definitely hear from me.

Kannaboomers (29:42): We'll keep an eye out for that. And should you want to come back on when the, when the book comes out, we'd love to have you and talk some more. Yeah. Maybe we'll do it together by Dr. Caplan

Abbie Rosner (29:53): Oh, that'd be great. Well, thanks again.

Speaker 2 (29:55): Thanks for having me. You've been listening to, Let's Talk About Weed, the Kannaboomers Podcast with Thomas J for more on medicinal cannabis for baby boomers. Visit us at Kannaboom dot com.