Dr. Michele Ross came into public consciousness when she appeared on the reality show Big Brother. As a PhD neuroscientist Michele has an outspoken view on what the conventional medical establishment lacks and the immense promise of cannabis. Michele is also the co-founder of GreenStone Labs.
[1:50] – Michele’s background
[6:33] – Michele talks about what it’s like to be on a reality show
[8:49] – Michele explains how the LAPD raided her and her husband
[15:10] – Gaps in traditional education for cannabis
[16:43] – Michele talks about how the Endocannabinoid system works
[18:12] – Michele explains how she uses cannabis for medical purposes
[20:38] – How cannabis helps with autoimmune symptoms
[23:42] – Michele talks about her preference of ingesting cannabis oil
[25:51] – What’s THCA
[27:34] – Michele explains what the Pineal Gland does
[30:54] – Michele talks about what DMT is
[38:21] – Michele shares her thoughts on Psilocybin
[41:09] – Michele discusses Serotonin
[44:37] – Michele talks about CBC from hemp and cannabis flowers
[46:03] – Michele talks about Greenstone labs
[52:14] – Michele talks about Greenleaf Glow cannabis drink
[54:27] – Michele’s contact information
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Do you know that feeling when you sense opportunity, when you see something before most people and you just know it will be successful, then you're ready. Ready for CannaInsider Consulting. Learn more at www.canninsider.com/consulting. Now here's your program.
Dr. Michele Ross is a neuroscientist, author and a cannabis educator. She starred on TV’s Big Brother as Michele Noonan and is now CEO of Greenstone Labs, Welcome to CannaInsider Michele.
Michele: Well thank you so much for having me Matthew, I'm excited to talk today about the Endocannabinoid system and brain and you know all that fun stuff about vitamin weed.
Matthew: Me too. Me too. Now to give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today?
Michele: Okay well today I’m in Denver, Colorado. Actually I moved here from Los Angeles in October, and I’m loving it up here.
Matthew: Good. Good. Even the winter is tolerable?
Michele: You know what, I’m actually from New Jersey and I went to school in Boston so this isn’t so bad. I actually missed the season living in Los Angeles. You know being on the beach all year is a little boring.
Matthew: Yes. This is like winter light out here. It’s not like the Northeast which is full winter, full flavored winter.
Michele: Exactly. You get a little sunshine and then it comes back to 70 and then snow in the evening. It’s what I call L.A. winter almost.
Matthew: Now can you give us a little background on your formal education on how you came to be a cannabis educator and author?
Michele: Okay. Well my story is a little interesting because I actually came from an anti-drug background, so I was fascinated with the brain since the time I could first read, so I was always talking about being a doctor and cracking open brains. I always had this joke about that I was being so obsessed with the brain when I was a kid that there were pretty much only three options for me, I could either be a zombie, I could be a serial killer, or I could be a neuroscientist, so thankfully I took the legal path and you haven't seen a whole big zombie outbreak or anything.
Matthew: Yes not yet.
Michele: Yeah, oh I'm prepared though trust me, I got my little guillotine and everything, in case there's zombies I could be throwing brains at them all day.
Matthew: Oh gosh, there is kind of a zombie thing going on for sure in the culture right now, lots of zombie stuff.
Michele: Yeah there are scientists studying that too about how people could actually become zombies but that's a whole other story.
Matthew: Yes that’s a different podcast.
Michele: Yeah so back to me, I went to Boston college for my undergrad and I studied psychology there and then since I grew up in New Jersey, I grew up in front of a crack house, So I always felt compelled to study drug addiction because I saw the horrible effects of drug abuse growing up, just my friends you know just sort of dropping out of school and some people dying and things like that, and I just wanted to help, I was never into drugs myself as a kid but it was just all around me things were falling apart. So I went to the University of Texas southwestern medical center at Dallas, and I studied how drugs affect the brain and more specifically the role of new born brain cells in your hippocampus, that's your learning and memory center and sort of the role of what those newborn brain cells have on addiction, memory and mental illness, So I finished up my PhD really fast, I'm sort of an over achiever so I finished in 4 and a half years, in 2008 , and I was trying to decide where to go to do my post-doctoral studies. Originally I really wanted to study the cannabinoid system and work at UC Irvine for my post doc, but I was married at that time to an aspiring comedian so he convinced me to move to Hollywood so he can work on his comedy and instead I ended up taking a position at Caltech that wasn't a really good fit for me. So it was interesting that luck should have it that I was in Hollywood and even my boss at Caltech was like you're a blonde at Caltech you're probably going to be picked up to go on some science show or something, you’re in Hollywood, and so, you know, of course I'm like no no no that's not what I’m here for.
And 5 months into the job I got picked to be on Big Brother the reality TV show on CBS. So I sort of had my exit. I was going ok I don't really like what I'm studying, here's this random random chance to go be the first female scientist on reality television and of course I picked my out, it was a great little time to be on TV for 3 months and experience something totally different and then afterwards I ended up going into the corporate world becoming a chief scientist of a very big company developing a whole bunch of different health and beauty products and then I started doing a lot more research still into the cannabinoid system and eventually ended up leaving to form my own company Greenstone Labs, with my now current husband Todd Ross.
It's just funny how it went full circle from being a researcher that was studying drug addiction trying to show how drugs are bad, the funding from the national institute of drug abuse, NIDA. To actually studying the cannabinoid systems and going drugs are great take your vitamin weed, so I'm a little bit of a conundrum, but once you realize how beneficial cannabis is for your body, it’s just amazing how brainwashed we've been and thankfully I've been able to wake up some of my fellow researchers that I've studied with that, so were all for cannabis, just a lot of us publicly can’t be in support of it until the federal government says it’s ok, or else they would lose their jobs.
Matthew: Now before we move on I just want to ask you about Big Brother a little bit. It's just such an unusual thing, What's it like to be on a reality TV show and how much of it gets edited and kind of manipulated to produce a certain outcome. I imagine it’s kind of like, is it like professional wrestling or I mean what's it like? what's the dynamic like?
Michele: Ok. So Big Brother is the most unique reality TV show on TV or on the internet. So unlike all the other shows its taped live so you can actually watch it on the internet 24/7 its streaming, so that's not edited at all. So you can see word for word everything I said over 3 months, which can be damaging and there is a lot of people that lost their jobs over things like that, something innocuous you said after a glass of wine or 2, you know, and you come back and go oh my god I said that?
It happened to me, it happened to a lot of other people. People lost their jobs, but it’s also very interesting in the fact that it’s not as edited, it’s being taped live so when you come out of the house and you're off the game show, people have already watched you. Whereas if you tape something like survivor or another show you tape it and it doesn't air for several months so you can come home and tell your family like what you did, and you’re like, oh I'm so embarrassed like there's a scene where my shirt falls off or something, you know. You can massage it and prepare people for it, whereas you're locked in this house for 3 months you don't get to talk to anyone. You don't know what's going on in the outside world, you have no books, no internet, nothing, and it’s sort of like you're on a weird version of house arrest and you come out and you have no idea what the public thinks of you, and they're either in love or they hate you and it’s just like instant stardom which I is really bizarre.
Michele: Yeah, sorry it's a mind F, to be honest. And I was one of the only people with a psychology background to go in there too. After they had me on they were like we’re never going to have another person that trained in psychiatry on because I was able to go through the cast and be like ok this is what's wrong with you and this is what's wrong with you and manipulate them, you know, because it’s really easy but most people don't have that background. You have people that are, you know, nurses or like waitresses and stuff on there and, you know, I was one of the most intelligent people on the show so it was easy, you know, to go through things.
Matthew: So now switching gears from one Big Brother to the next, you had an unpleasant experience with the LAPD that's kind of colored some of your thoughts and feelings around cannabis, can you tell us what happened there?
Michele: Yeah, it's interesting because one of the things that, you know, was the hardest experience of my life, obviously I tried to use that and bring it to a positive. But in July 2013 me and my husband were sitting home, making lunch and basically opened up the door and were raided by the LAPD. Basically like a swat force came in, it wasn't a swat team but they had assault rifles and everything, they basically came in took my husband out and took me out the front door, like had us on opposite sides of our street and were like interrogating us. At first they were like somebody was kidnapped in your house, then they were like somebody broke in do you live at your house. And then finally it was they searched my home without a warrant, and they ended up finding like in the cabinet like literally like a bottle with like 2 inches of alcohol and cannabis bud in it because I was making tincture and they ended up charging us with felony possession of concentrate and then also conspiracy to possess concentrate which is hilarious because I'm like ok what couple gets charged with conspiracy, like oh conspiracy to smoke a joint together, you know.
Michele: You know, it’s just like husband and wife. I'm just like 'I'm conspiring to go get some milk later. It was the most bogus ridiculous charges but we thought they would be dropped and in fact they were dropped. The felony charges were dropped but then they brought them back as misdemeanors and we ended up fighting the case for 10 months which was really really grueling, we were in court about maybe, I would say like twice a month and it was just a horrible experience. I had PTSD from the raid, just because there were a lot of improper things that happened and it was just really awful, but we stuck to our guns, we knew that we didn't do anything wrong, we were medical patients, we had all our paperwork we were in the right we were in the clear.
And basically we took it all the way trial which everyone was like oh my god you're facing 3 years in prison, with the conspiracy charges and we went in there and they dropped the case the day they were supposed to pick the jury. So thankful for that halleluiah but you know it just made me realized that Los Angeles wasn't the place to start a cannabis business right now, It’s a very not pro cannabis environment. I guess maybe they’re getting ready to change regulations up in order to get 2016 marijuana legalization going, but right not they are just cracking down on everything, all the delivery services are being shut down so a lot of the cannabis tech is being suppressed, it’s just not very favorable. So me and my husband after that were just like you know what we need a fresh start so we decided to pack our bags and come to Denver, where you know obviously cannabis is flowing here and everyone is supportive of the industry instead of trying to find ways to send people to jail or to shut down there businesses for no reason.
Matthew: I Imagine that changes your perspective or can’t help but change your perspective when you think the system is here to protect and create justice for all citizens and then you go through something like that and you realize like hey maybe that's not why the system exists, it kind of exists perhaps to perpetuate itself and defend itself, Did it change your perspective at all?
Michele: It definitely changed my perspective on justice, I've never been arrested before and pretty much my only experiences with police had been being pulled over because I was speeding or something where actually I knew I had done something wrong. So it's interesting to me it seemed like the system was here to get money from us, like we had to pay bail money, we had to this , we had to do that. And in fact one of the biggest problems with our arrest and our legal battle was actually that one of the cops, he hated marijuana, he says “I'm arresting the 2 of you not because you did anything wrong but because marijuana is federally illegal” and were like you can’t do that you're not DEA or something. Like marijuana's legal in Los Angeles, it's legal in California we did nothing wrong. And he kept saying it’s illegal federally and it’s my mission to arrest everyone for marijuana, you're probably dealing drugs to kids. Just because of one person’s vendetta they were able to basically obstruct justice and put us through the ringer for no reason.
We're two really smart people and really savvy about legal stuff and I can’t Imagine how many people fight the system and just give up or they take probation or they take a year in jail, you know, because they're scared, every step of the way they kept pressuring us and kept trying to make me feel like I was going to go to jail forever, you know, for something that was really stupid. It was literally a topical, it was something you put on for joint pain. I was just like really, this is ridiculous, marijuana's been legal in California since 1996 or something. It was intimidation and it was all about money and it was all about winning for them. It very much seemed like if we took any type of probation, any type of, you know, way to say that we were guilty in some way they won, that's all they cared about, they're like we have to win in some way and I was like no you're not gonna win. I'd rather go to jail on principle than say I did something I didn't.
Matthew: Gosh, so they were pressuring you to take a plea bargain it sounds like or some sort.
Michele: Yeah, every step of the way, up until, they even tried to pit me and my husband up against each other and tried to get him to be like oh we'll let her off because I had a lot of medical problems and they kept saying oh you don't want to put her through this so you take all the chargers and she'll just go away. My husband’s like I didn't do anything either. You know so it was just very horrible.
Matthew: Oh my god, well I'm glad you're on the other side of that now.
Michele : Yeah and you know I’ve used that experience to help highlight some of the people that are either in jail for marijuana or are currently fighting charges. I work with the Human Solution. Which is a really great nonprofit that works hard, Joe Grumbine is the founder of that organization and they're great people, if you ever have any problems with the law, contact them and they’ll be able to help you.
Matthew: So going back to your education a little bit, now that you're finished with your formal education, do you look back on it and see just massive gaps in terms of cannabis or drugs or how it's positioned to students by the education system?
Michele: Well that's interesting, I think that… my doctorate was on neuroscience and It was focused on how drugs effected the brain, but it was only some drugs and when I look back on it, it was like ok I learned about meth, I learned about cocaine, I learned about heroine, I learned about ecstasy, and these were really all the drugs that they were really focused on funding, you know, anti addiction studies.
Like okay, how do we get people to stop using alcohol or meth or cocaine and things like that, drugs that they weren't really studying like LSD, DMT or even cannabis, they never really discussed them. Now here I was in an intense, really intense PhD education and I think that they maybe they spent 10 minutes on marijuana. So I mean that's really disturbing, the Endocannabinoid system I don't even think they actually mentioned that. I think that they just mentioned the word Marijuana for like 10 seconds and that was it. I ended up having to read about the Endocannabinoid system myself in order to, you know, write grants and do things that I was working on because I was like wait this is involved somehow because it’s involved in the dopamine system and I was studying reward and addiction but it was weird that I had to teach myself about it.
Matthew: You know let’s talk about that a little bit because we’re all familiar from biology class with the respiratory and pulmonary system but it was a surprise to me like wait a second I got this system and it’s designed to work with cannabis? Endocannabinoid? It's a conspiracy, what's going on here, how did I not know about this and how does it work and now I want to know as much as I can about it, so can you tell us about how that works?
Michele: Yeah, It's crazy. The Endocannabinoid system is actually the largest neurotransmitter system in your body, its expressed in almost every cell in your body and that's why it’s so scary that's it barely mentioned in medical school and your doctor knows nothing about it. So I mean don't feel bad if you know nothing about it, hey the guy that's operating on you, you know, giving you your medications, supposed to be trained in everything that your body does, knows nothing about it. But hopefully I'll tell you a little more than your own doctor knows right now.
So the Endocannabinoid system is responsible for homeostasis or basically balance in your body, it helps makes sure that your body runs smoothly. It fine tunes neural transmission, so that's basically the messages that your brain cells send, so it makes sure that there’s not too much signal or that there’s not too little signal being produced. So basically to make this really easy to understand, it’s sort of like the brakes on your car, Endocannabinoids help keep us from crashing. So there you go, so it helps you slow down. Just like, you know, when you smoke a joint and it makes you feel chill, it also helps the brain cells in your body sort of chill out and relax.
Matthew: Now you mentioned that you're suffering from some PTSD symptoms after the LAPD raid, do you use cannabis or certain strains, or tinctures or anything to kind of treat those symptoms?
Michele: Yeah, so I actually suffer from a lot of medical problems, including auto immune disorders, at one point I couldn't even walk for about a year. I suffer from severe endometrioses as well and nerve pain and so when I can have it sometimes it’s hard to get a good supply if you're not growing it yourself but I do take cannabis oil every day, I take tincture under my tongue.
So basically cannabis oil helps maintain my mood. I’ve noticed that when I didn't have cannabis oil. Like for example it’s very interesting in LA even after I won my case the police still harassed me and came to my home and did searches and stuff and they would take away my cannabis. They would like come into my home and like take it away. And I was just like, they just took my medicine for no reason and I was like it’s legal for me to have it and they would just take it. So I kept losing my supply and it was horrible, so I would go a couple months without my cannabis oil and then I would get some more dah, dah, dah, but the months that I wasn't on it I would get very depressed, I was irritable, and some of my symptoms would come back. I had horrible nightmares and just anxiety, you know, it was like a door would close and I would jump 10 feet and I also had a lot of pain, and you know when you're in pain, in chronic pain it really does affect your mood and everything. So cannabis oil and also edibles, I find myself much more reactive to edibles than smoking. Smoking will help take away like the pain very slightly but for me for the real medical effects, I really have to inject as much cannabis as possible, so the tincture, the oils and then the edibles. And because a lot of the edibles contain a lot of sugar and things like that that aren't really good for you if you're sick, I try to stay away from that and eat the sort of gluten free, healthy, you know vegan edibles and they're not that available. So that's one if the things that I hope, if anyone's listening go make some healthy edibles for the really sick people.
Matthew: I've got some guest coming up that are doing just that so I’m glad to hear you describe that problem.
Matthew: now switching gears to inflammation, and you talked a little bit about autoimmune diseases. That seems like it's almost epidemic proportions, all these different autoimmune problems, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and the list goes on and on, how do you see cannabis helping with auto immune systems specifically?
Michele: Okay, well you're right about the epidemic of auto Immune disorders there's over 80 different types, and you know some of the ones you mentioned were the lightweight ones. They also include multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, which I have, lupus, which is something my cousin has, so I have a lot of experience with autoimmune disorders.
Autoimmune disorder just a definition for your listeners, is when the body’s Immune system attacks healthy tissues in your body, so it thinks that it’s something foreign and just destroys it. So that can lead to a lot of horrible symptoms that are really hard to treat with traditional medications, like chronic pain, swelling, especially of the joints, headaches, fatigue, muscles weakness, allergies, the list goes on. Once you get one autoimmune disorder it’s almost like contagious, it’s not contagious but like you end up getting more autoimmune disorders, it’s like you get sicker and sicker, and so some people are completely disabled and can’t even work. And thank god for cannabis cause it seems to be the one thing that really helps people with autoimmune disorders.
Last year scientists actually found out that THC suppresses the Immune system. And for a healthy person this might not be good because the Immune system is Important for things like, you know, preventing you from getting the flu. So in a healthy person this would be bad because okay your Immune system is a little depressed, now you just caught the flu from, you know, your sick neighbor at work, but for a person that has an over active Immune system like a person with fibromyalgia there Immune system is over reactive and its leading to too much inflammation in the body. Now there's joint pain, there's rashes, there's swelling and there's all these problems because it’s just attacking itself. THC because it’s surprising the Immune system will actually stop the inflammation and once you know you're no longer swelling up and you're not having this pain and you're not having all these other symptoms the headaches etc. you start to feel a lot better. Besides just the instant relief you get from smoking you actually have these long term effects that are based on modifying what genes are expressed in your body. So in really nerdy terms it’s called epigenetics when basically your DNA is a recipe and it’s not always read in the same way, sometimes just different parts of it are read. THC actually helps modify that recipe and express the genes that help lower the Immune systems so that you don't attack yourself. So it’s really a long term amazing treatment and if people can take basically their daily vitamin weed every day they can help either treat their auto Immune disease or even prevent one from happening because people seem to get auto Immune disorders later in life especially for women in their 30's.
Matthew: So you mentioned just a little bit earlier about you prefer to ingest cannabis or cannabis oil, is it because you feel like you get more of the full expression? Like when you smoke it, yes you get some positive effects but it's not nearly as complete as ingesting the whole plant or oil.
Michele: Yeah it’s about bio availability. So when you smoke cannabis you're not really getting all the effects of the plant, especially depending on how you burn the cannabis. Sometimes you can burn off some of the terpenes that are in it and the terpenes are some of those other cannabinoids that are in cannabis and some of them help THC and CBD get into your brain. So without them if you burn them off sometimes you don't absorb the THC. It’s almost like when you talk about people taking vitamin C pills and they pee out a lot of the vitamin C. So bio availability is really important.
So the more TCH and CBD you can get into your body and the longer it can last inside your body that's really Important for the health benefits. And so ingesting it just allows all those positive cannabinoids to stay in your body as long as possible and really work to reduce inflammation to reduce pain, they are antioxidants too so I mean they do a lot of beneficial things in your body. So I tell people you can’t overdose from it so I mean try to get as much cannabinoids your body, as possible. I actually think most people are deficient in Endocannabinoids which are the natural cannabinoids produced by your brain. So if you can’t make enough natural cannabinoids you know get the ones from the plant. So just like when we can't make enough Vitamin D, that’s something that’s produced naturally when we're out in sunlight, you can also get a Vitamin D supplement or you can eat it in food. So I tell people if you don't make enough Vitamin Weed, Eat your Vitamin Weed. It's going to take a little bit, you know, of flipping people’s brains for them to see it instead of being a drug, something beneficial seeing it as a health food, but that’s what it can be if used properly and especially if it's used in its raw form. Cannabis can only get you high when it’s burned or smoked so raw cannabis, in its raw form like THCA and CBDA actually doesn't get you high.
Matthew: Yeah, now can you talk about what THCA is? Most people, almost everybody listening knows what THC is but what's THCA?
Michele: Ok, so THCA is a raw form of TCH produced in live cannabis plant. So you're cannabis plant isn't producing THC, just so you know, so it produces THCA. And when cannabis is either heated or smoked or dried, some of that THCA is decarboxylated and that's the nerdy term for it and it’s converted into THC. So you actually have to have a chemical process to turn the raw THCA into THC. What's interesting is that the THCA isn't psychoactive at all so you could eat tons and tons of THCA, tons of the plant, you could juice it and you won't get high so it's a very different chemical than THC. I actually think it's a lot healthier for the body than THC.
THC does have a lot of amazing health benefits but THCA seems to be very powerful in preventing nausea, vomiting, these things have very anti cancer benefits. We don't know as much about THCA as we do THC but as the research opens up and federal regulations and everything allow us to look at this plant a little bit more I think we’re going to learn that THCA is super powerful and is gonna be a really Important tool in fighting disease and promoting health. I like to call it Vitamin Weed.
Matthew: That's a good term for it.
Matthew: Now, what about the Pineal Gland? It's something I'm fascinated with, some people call it the third eye, and it’s in the center of the brain. How do you describe this, there’s obviously the scientific point of view of what it is and what is does, but is there something else going on here, I mean what is the Pineal Gland and what does it do?
Michele: That's interesting, that's obviously not my realm of study, but I do know a little about it. Most people actually there Pineal Gland is what’s called calcified so it’s actually because of a lot of things that we eat a lot of the foods that we eat actually sort of put too much calcium in the Pineal Gland and it doesn't work as good as it should. The Pineal Gland actually regulates a lot of the hormones in our body and so when it's out of balance or it’s not working as well were not as in tune with our bodies as it’s supposed to, it’s not running as well. Our hormones, like our thyroid hormones might be out of whack or like say our endocrine hormones, our testosterone, our estrogen and everything like that is a little bit out of order. And so for people, whether it's meditating, whether it’s you know eating a proper diet, detoxifying from mercury, you know all these weird woo woo things you hear but it’s sort of true that you really need to have a healthy body to have a healthy brain. And when you have a healthy brain then it takes over everything and it helps your mind work better, it helps your body work better, and it helps you really connect with other people. It helps you be more intuitive. I think that there is a lot of potential in people’s brain that they don’t unlock because their brain isn’t working. It's a muscle just like any other part of your body, right. You do bicep curls to get buff arms but what do we do for our brains, what do we do to make ourselves smarter, what do we do to make ourselves better problem solvers or merit empathetic to people’s needs or problems. And you know we need to take care of our brain. And so by eating healthier or by meditating or doing certain things that, you know, help certain parts of our brain like the Pineal Gland work better, you know, we can use our brain to its highest advantage.
Matthew: Yeah, now you mentioned it being calcified for a lot of people and unless you live in Portland or San Diego which are probably the two biggest cities that don’t have, what is it…
Matthew: … fluoride in the water and chlorine too. There is chlorine in the water, except for those places, San Diego has always opted out but Portland recently opted out of that too and that's what I've heard, I don't know if that’s true or not but it can calcify this Pineal Gland which a lot of people when they have a near death experience this gland releases DMT. So there are some interesting things going on with this, I'm always fascinated to learn more about that.
Michele: Yeah, It's very interesting too as a Neuroscientist, you know, DMT is something that is formed in the brain and again I have PhD in Neuroscience and I didn’t even hear DMT during my graduate school experience, I had to learn that from other people that actually used the drug and go okay what the hell is this? They all knew about this drug and I knew nothing about it, you know. And then it turns out that people without a Neuroscience degree were much more informed about it than I was.
Matthew: So when you were getting your doctorate they really didn't talk about psychedelics at all?
Michele: No, nothing and it’s really fascinating because DMT is produced in your brain so it’s very bizarre. Here are things produced in your brain and they’re just pretending that it doesn’t exist, why, because were not allowed to research it because the government made it a Schedule 1 drug? It's just bizarre.
Matthew: Can you describe a little bit what DMT is?
Michele: Okay, so I actually don't know as much about DMT because again it's a not as well studied but it is released in your brain, and I think it's actually released a lot when you die or when you have a near death experience. So it is a natural thing. You can actually make it, I think from Ayahuasca Bark, and so people can purchase it illegally, in this country illegally or legally in other countries where they use Ayahuasca drink or they smoke the DMT and it can definitely cause a psychedelic experience where people actually feel like they are connected to a higher power or they find insight about themselves.
It’s a very interesting drug that I actually had personal experience with. And it’s very interesting, my husband actually introduced me to it as a way to deal with some of the trauma of my past. I have a lot of emotional traumas of things like my brother passed away when he was 20 in college and things that I didn’t really deal with and were holding me back. For a lot of people you can go to psychotherapy for say 10-20 years and not get over some of your emotional baggage and other people, you know, will use a drug like ecstasy or actually MDMA is the medicinal term or Ayahuasca or DMT and maybe in 10 minutes actually change their view on something that was, you know, emotional scarring and change it to something that’s liberating or feel at peace with themselves or see where they are supposed to go.
Some people feel stuck and this drug seems to unstick them or sort of make them feel more comforted. For me, it’s very interesting because I had studied the brain for a very long time and I also have a history of mental illness in my family so I was very scared that taking a psychedelic would unlock some genetic predisposition to mental illness and you know I might be out there in Schitzo land. That's scary, you know, when you know about Schizophrenia and you know there’s a possibility that you could be Schizophrenic you don't want to mess with that.
So I waited till I was in my 30's to try anything like that and, you know, I still was very scared, and for me I don’t like to lose control at all. So for me DMT was the safest Psychedelic drug that I could try because it’s something that when you use it if you don’t want to experience it anymore all you have to do is open your eyes and then you're no longer under the effect of the psychedelic. It only is working when you close your eyes and you can see these visuals and things like that and if you want it to stop you just open your eyes. So for me, and it also only lasts, 2 to 8 minutes depending on how much you use and you know your metabolism that day or, you know, random other little variables but it’s something that’s very short and very controllable. So for me it was something that was safe, I did it with a bunch of people that i felt very comfortable with, for me it was one of the most life changing experiences I've ever had and it brought me a lot of peace.
Matthew: Yeah so I hear that quite often and just for people to understand the Ayahuasca that Michele mentioned earlier is typically two plants that are combined together and that experience can last many hours. But smoking DMT can be a very short experience. So when you closed your eyes what did you see?
Michele: Well that's interesting, there is actually an interview that I did with that'll describe that a lot better. This is funny, it’s a very emotional experience and when I first took the drug I saw just, you know, your typical sort of like psychedelic type of trippy stuff where if you did mushrooms or something and you see weird patterns and psychedelic like beautiful, just gorgeous pictures. It's almost like the most beautiful screen saver you've ever seen. I could never actually describe it.
Michele: Yeah exactly, and then it sort of, my dimensional, I guess where I was in like space and time sort of bent so it was really weird to explain but it felt like is as in fourth dimension. Like there was like, I was bending and swirling and all of a sudden I felt like I was falling too and it was very interesting. I have done DMT multiple times and I have either felt like I was either falling or I was being like lifted up, it’s very interesting. So once you are in the middle of the experience you seem to either go up or go down. But then the experience changed from this very psychedelic swirly type of visual experience to something that was very spiritual.
The first time I ever did it I actually felt like I was floating up to heaven and I was at the last supper and was with... It was very bizarre, I'm not a very religious person, I grew up catholic but I was like okay. I just felt like I was up in heaven with very important people like it was okay, like I was supposed to be there, I was one of these important people and like I was accepted and I was, you know, like supposed to be a leader or something. It was just very interesting. And then another time I did it I just had this very good feeling about being connected and being comforted and being loved. This overwhelming feeling, no matter how many times I've done it is a feeling of being loved and having like worth. So for me I often feel lonely here because I don’t have a good connection with my family and to be reinforced that like the universe loves you and that you’re part of something bigger is an amazing feeling. These experiences are some things that you can’t really put into terms. It’s just awe inspiring, magical, glorious, spiritual feeling, and it’s just very interesting.
Even as a neuroscientist you know people want me to put this into terms for them and very logical scientific descriptions and you just can't. It's almost orgasmic. You’re just like Ahhhhh. It's hilarious. It's hilarious but then also really deep. Everyone has a different experience on it. Some people just, you know, they don’t what they call cross over and have that spiritual experience, but at the same time very few people have a negative trip on it they don't have a really negative experience, the only people I've ever seen have a negative experience on it are the people that aren’t maybe aren’t doing the right things in their life. Say it's someone that's hurting someone or choosing very wrong, you know, possibly the wrong path, it seems like their trip was something that, you know, something warns them or something so then they have like a weird feeling, otherwise most people feel very comforted by it.
Matthew: Right, My experience has been when people try to resist what’s happening to them and their experience is when the bad trip occurs. I mean there’s a lot of ways a bad trip can occur if they don't. Switching too mushrooms. I'm fascinated by mushrooms because I feel like it’s starting to get more of a ' psilocybin" were talking about a medicinal reputation in that you know some people are saying once a year I like to have a Psilocybin Experience because I feel like it grounds me, it makes me more humble, it gives me perspective into my life, it takes me off the treadmill for a minute so I can see the context and not just the content of what I'm doing. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Michele: Yeah, so it’s very interesting because you were talking about that faced of your personality which is openness and that’s one of the things that psychedelics really works on is openness. So for you to try new experiences, for you to, you know, be morerisk taking which is something that most people don't do. In order to succeed in life or enjoy your life you have to take risks and most people are so scared, everyone is ruled by fear and people that experiences psychedelics seem to remove the fear out of their life. They seem open to trying new things, to meeting new people, to going new places and how can that be a bad thing?
So I find psychedelics also like many of the other, well actually sorry, mushrooms have also been shown to increase adult neurogenesis which is the creation of new brain cells and its very interesting because we have been taught, even when I was in school that drugs of abuse, you know the Schedule 1 drugs all hurt your brain, they all destroy brain cells. And here we are, now we're finding things like cannabis increases new brain cells, mushrooms increases mew brain cells and these are all things that are involved with, you know, having openness and having, you know, a very positive spiritual and psychological experience.
I've had one mushroom experience in my life and it was very, it was also another life changing experience for me. It also made me feel very connected with the world. It was a very different experience from DMT because it's much longer and it can go very introspective towards the end. It's the drug that's very influenced on who you're with at the time and also what you're feeling and what your mood is and everything. So I think that I don’t have as much experience to talk about it personally as I do with other things, but it was definitely something that I’d try again. I definitely think it’s helpful to, you know, sort of objectively see where you are in life and see what maybe you could improve on, you know, maybe you know find out, you know, sometimes we're not honest with ourselves and I think psychedelics help us to be honest with ourselves. Finally like be one on one be like okay cut the bullshit, you know like what is really making you happy, you know maybe you should go pursue that. And so I think psychedelics really are your personal therapist.
Matthew: Gosh, very well said. Now I recently learned that Serotonin which is a feel good hormone I think, you can tell me, but a lot of it is produced not in the brain but in the gut and the gut seems kind of this big unknown, the last frontier of the human body, what’s going on? What is serotonin? Where is it made and how does it interactive between our gut and our brain?
Michele: Okay, well you actually nailed it right on the head. I mean I would describe it as our feel good hormone. It’s a neurotransmitter just like dopamine or adrenaline, it’s secreted by your brain cells and it helps regulate your mood, eating, sleeping, and your memory. It regulates sex drive, you know, all that fun stuff, so when your body doesn’t make enough serotonin or the system isn’t working properly, you become depressed and become sick. So that’s why anti-depressants like Prozac target the Serotonin system. The very fascinating part of this and this is why drugs like Prozac actually have a lot of bad side effects is because 95% of your body, Serotonin isn't found in your brain, it's found in your gut.
Matthew: That’s crazy.
Michele: So, when you take a drug that's supposed to increase Serotonin signaling in your brain like Prozac, instead it's mostly working in your gut and you end up having these lovely GI side effects like diarrhea and stuff and you’re going okay, you know, this is supposed to help my mood but now instead my sex drive is weird, my gut’s all messed up. You have a lot of side effects. I think it's very interesting that we are finally focusing on the gut, and it’s actually our second brain. There’s over 100 million neurons in the gut, there’s more neurons there than there are in your spinal cord or anywhere else in your peripheral nervous system and that's the system of basically neurons outside your brain. So there’s 100 million neurons what are they doing in the gut?
Most of them are actually just regulating things like, you know, your stomach reflexes, you know like, you’re trying to digest the food and be rhythmic and keep the pace and everything for metabolism. But it's very interesting because not only do these nerves, you know, secrete things and your brain is talking to your gut, there’s also reverse transmission where your gut’s talking to your brain, So if your gut’s unhappy because it's stressed out or you have a really bad diet, you know all you're doing is rocking the red bulls, you know red bulls and steak or something, or you have a disease like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Celiac Disease, your gut’s very unhappy and it talks to those neurons back to the brain and it signals to it that it's not happy.
And so this can make… when your guys upset then your brain is upset. So It's very linked and so we’re actually finding now that if we can treat the gut, maybe put more healthy Flora in it or reduce some of the damage that we’ve done to our gut that we can actually Improve mood. And that's really amazing because a lot of depression is really resistant to a lot of our normal pharmaceutical treatments. You know Prozac doesn't work for everyone and so hopefully more research we'll find out every single person’s gut is different, it's almost like you can identify a person by their gut Flora. It's very unique, so the more we learn about it, you know, the more exciting… we'll probably be able to cure a lot of autoimmune diseases too through the gut.
Matthew: Gosh, that sounds so promising I can't wait for that.
Michele: Yep, definitely try out something like there’s a lot of citizen science going around with the gut. A company called uBiome is really cool about learning more about your gut.
Matthew: Oh really Okay. Now how do you feel about the quality of CBD that comes from hemp versus cannabis flowers?
Michele: Okay, so my personal take on it is that hemp is lacking some of the terpenes that help our body absorb the cannabinoids like CBD. So when the CBD is less bio-available you have to take twice as much of it. So I think that when you have CBD that comes from hemp versus cannabis you're probably going to have to take twice as much of it to get the same effect. So I don't think the quality is lower it’s just less Bio-available. So for me I prefer to take CBD that's from cannabis. Now I think you also need just a little bit of THC to make everything happy.
Matthew: Right, that’s to the entourage effect where everything’s working together, you can’t just isolate something by itself.
Michele: Yeah, even treating things like seizures where people are saying oh the CBD oil helps my kid with the seizures. A lot of parents and other doctors have found that just adding just even that little percentage just 1% THC definitely does help balance out the CBD and helps it work better.
Matthew: Right and you're not going to high from 1% CBD, just for anybody listening who was wondering about that.
Michele: 1% THC you mean.
Matthew: Yeah sorry 1% THC.
Michele: Yeah, You definitely won't, you know, you’re not going to be able to overdose or your kid’s not going to get sick from that percentage of THC.
Matthew: So let’s talk a little bit about Greenstone Labs. What are you doing there?
Michele: Okay, So I'm the co-founder of Greenstone Labs along with my husband Todd. Together we've created a whole bunch of intellectual properly related to diagnostics and treatments of diseases related to Endocannabinoid deficiency. One of the main things that we have been working on together is the Endocannabinoids Deficiency Foundation, so we’ve been coming up with a lot of research into the different diseases and how the Endocannabinoid system relates to them. How the Endocannabinoid systme dysfunctional in them and you know maybe finding different ways that we can test for these diseases. So for example my disease Endometriosis was surprisingly linked to the Endocannabinoid system yet nobody has really come up with a good diagnostics for it. The only diagnosis for my disease is like a $25.000 surgery. Like that’s ridiculous. You know, that’s ridiculous. Where actually we can just do a swab and find okay there's a very specific test that we're developing right now that would be so easy and would reduce health care costs. It would be much less painful for people and it would, you know, reduce time for diagnosis.
For example my disease normally takes women 10 years to be diagnosed, and 10 years of awful awful pain and maybe not be able to work. Where all they would need to do is go to their doctor and get a swab test and be like oh you have this disease, let’s get treated now. There’s so many diseases like that were there’s not good treatments or not good diagnostic tests. And I think that the Endocannabinoid system is going to be a major target for both pharmaceutical companies and our industry, but we really do need people that understand cannabis and also understand these different medical disorders and sort of bridge the knowledge.
Cannabis, we know a lot about it and we don’t know a lot about it, but we do know is how some of these drugs work like for example we know how they work to be anti-inflammatories like they're cox-2 inhibitors, and we know how other pharmaceutical cox-2 inhibitors work. So if you can put 2 and 2 together you can sort of see how cannabis or some of these cannabinoids are working and be like oh this is how this is fixing this disease. And so right now there are just so many diseases and so much work to be done that I think that everyone’s got to put their heads together and just go for it. We’re going to be able to revolutionize healthcare. It's almost like we can't fix the broken health care system that we have now we just have to reinstate a new one. I really think that, you know, Endocannabinoid health is going to be the new healthcare system because it's a drug without almost any side effects whereas everything that you see on the market, it's expensive, causes side effects, it causes death. So I mean do we really want a health care system that's perpetuated by death and treatment, no you know. Yes it’s making the companies money but eventually it's not going to be sustaining.
Matthew: Yeah, for sure, definitely when you hear some of these pharmaceutical drugs and the side effects, it almost sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit or a horror movie, Like Worms may grow out of your belly button and your eyeballs may fall out, but they say it in a tone where it doesn't sound so bad like did you really just say that.
Michele: Well. Just to give you an example, I almost died from a treatment that I took. So I was on a regimen of high dose hormonal birth control treatments to control the Endometriosis that I had, and I was on it for 12 years. Basically it makes me skip my period, and so I was on it so long all of a sudden I developed blood clots in my legs and then they moved to my lungs and December 26th I thought I was having a heart attack and I showed up in the ER. Thought I was having a heart attack, I can't breathe you know. It's funny because I started complaining of these symptoms and not being able to breathe and everyone was like "it's altitude sickness from Denver" . And I’m like I don’t think so, and it turned out to be that I actually had tons and tons of blood clots in my lungs and I was going to die if I didn't go to the ER that day.
My treatment caused all these blood clots and had I not gone to the hospital I definitely would have died in my sleep. So I ended up being on an oxygen tank and ended up in a wheel chair for like 3 months. I'm actually just getting back on my feet now. It was sort of a bummer because I'm a type -A personality and I actually had to go take a break and be like, you know, I need to focus on my health and repair my body and look at, you know, what some of these other drugs because was on 14 different drugs at one point to control my different diseases. And it was just like I wanted to be on cannabis, but a lot of doctors won't do surgery on you if you're on cannabis. They automatically think you are a drug addict. I had one doctor say that they were going to pee test me for cannabis and if I showed positive they wouldn’t treat me for anything. So I was like okay so I have to give it up for a little while and as soon as I gave it up and started some of these other treatments like topicals like Lidocaine and this and that I just ended up with heart problems and a whole bunch of other things and it was a mess.
And so I ended up finding a doctor who is okay with cannabis use because it's my choice as a patient how I want to get treated. I urge anyone if your doctor tells your no you can't use cannabis or treats you’re like a drug addict, run. Find a new one. You may have to look really hard to find a good doctor that is accepting that cannabis can be used as an adjunct treatment and I think a lot of doctors think it’s an alternative treatment, like you can only do pharmaceuticals or cannabis. I urge doctors and patients to also understand that you can be on say low dose opiates and cannabis. Cannabis actually helps from becoming addicted to your opiate treatment. So like say your Oxycodone or something like that whereas if you were just taking Oxycodone alone you start getting tolerant and start taking high doses or possibly getting addicted to your medication. When you’re using cannabis you’ll tend not to escalate their doses and they tend not to get addicted. Their doctors need to be educated on the fact that you can take cannabis and take other medications and it will actually help reduce your reliance on those pharmaceutical medications and it's safe.
Matthew: Great point. We don't emphasize that enough, nearly enough in the medical community. Now you are also working on a cannabis drink, can you tell us what you're doing there?
Michele: Okay, so we're developing a raw Cannabis Drink called Greenleaf Glow. Right now there is no raw cannabis drink commercially available, widespread throughout the states or, you know, even throughout California or Colorado which I think is a shame because we have been talking about the benefits of THCA and CBDA. These raw cannabinoids have so many health benefits, and they don't get you high and that's something that's really important because a lot of professionals, you know, they can't come to work stoned, but they still want to get the health benefits of cannabinoids. So how do you do this? With this raw cannabis juice you're going to be able to, you know, either treat some of your symptoms whether you're sick or you can help prevent becoming sick. So you're going to be able to drink this juice maybe once or three times a day, depending on what your needs are, and it's going to be like almost a Prophylactic. It's going to help, you know, restore your body to its natural state; it's going to be optimizing you. So it’s like either you're sick and you're going to be normal, if you're normal you're going to... well I'm not going to say super human but it's definitely going to help you think better and give you more energy and its going to fine tune your system. So forget six hour energy this is the real stuff. This is what your body needs. You know we make this on our brain, and we make Endocannabinoids in our brain. We need to be eating these Vitacannabinoids just like we vitamin D. So everyone needs their daily dose of Vitamin Weed, and hopefully my drink Greenleaf Glow will help, you know, give an easy way for people to take it.
Matthew: I want to try that!
Michele: Well, we'll definitely get you some.
Matthew: I like how you say I won't say Superhuman but now that words in my head. I want to be superhuman!
Michele: Well you know, that's what everything’s about right now from Noah Tropics on down everyone’s trying to push the envelope, how do we become our best self because we’re just at the limit of unlocking our capabilities. How do you make your brain.. if you can make your brain work at its optimal level, your body’s going to work better. So you know, let's see where we can push it and how awesome we can make ourselves.
Matthew: I am down with that. Well Michele as we close how can our listeners follow you online and follow all your work and find your drink and everything you're doing?
Michele: Okay, so you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @DrMicheleRoss. My parents were weird and only gave me on L, so don’t put the double L in there. And then you can also find out a little more about the Endocannabinoid system and about how the Endocannabinoid deficiency might be a part of what’s making you ill and the website for that is going to be www.decdf.org.
Matthew: Great, well Michele thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.
Michele: Thanks it was a lot of fun.
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