My quest to achieve a week of weed wellness 

click to enlarge MICHAEL E. BURDICK
  • Michael E. Burdick

When I was diagnosed with scoliosis at 14, I figured the required corrective surgery would be the end of my pain. My cervical (top) and thoracic (middle) spine had curved a dramatic 70 degrees, forcing my rib cage to infringe on my lungs and other organs. My lumbar (lower) spine was, in less technical terms, totally fucked.

Luckily, one of the top orthopedic surgeons in Michigan was able to perform a procedure which involved lifting my spine out of my body and fusing it to some titanium rods with what looks like a hodgepodge of nuts and screws from the hardware store — and for the love of god do not YouTube this procedure, you will vomit. My recovery was long and was made longer by my refusal of the forever refillable Vicodin that had been prescribed to me. I relied only on the occasional over-the-counter pain reliever. I assumed, over time, it would only get easier.

The Michigan Medical Marihuana Program was two years old by the time I became a patient in 2010. I was 21, making my operation nearly seven years old and my pain levels hovering around a hard eight. I had smoked weed before and had treated it like a party favor. In fact, I was notably pretty stoned when I had my first kiss at 16, finessing the joint between my rubber band-bound braces. A few years later, I learned that marijuana could help with my pain, nerve damage, daily migraines, and inflexibility. As it turns out, I was among the earliest batch of patients to take advantage of the program.

Almost immediately, I found my go-to dispensary, and my pain was quickly becoming something I could manage thanks to my new friends indica and sativa. Two months into having my card I was offered a job at that very dispensary, and would eventually manage that space years later.

During that time, I saw anywhere from 10 to 50 patients a day, most of whom I had made deep connections with. From making small talk and swapping histories of pain to cradling a frustrated multiple sclerosis sufferer, talking schizophrenic patients off the ledge, and getting to know the names of children, grandchildren, and pets of almost all of our regulars, working the desk meant something more than checking valid IDs and paperwork. It wasn't uncommon for patients to suggest that we were doing "God's work."

It should go without saying that, yes, the other half of our patient base would qualify as your typical stoners. And sure, this job taught me how to smoke even the most seasoned toker under the table. But the truth is, for those four years I worked in fear: fear of being raided by overzealous law enforcement, and fear that people, including myself, may not have access to their medicine. Mostly, however, it was really fucking fun.

In the 10 years since Michigan's program launched, little has changed in terms of legality. But new trails are being blazed as far as new products and experiences being made available to patients, and the many ganjapreneurs are committed to seeing the movement through.

So when discussion of the Metro Times 4/20 issue rolled around, we decided to take a less Cheech & Chong approach to marijuana. Instead, I would embark on what I had glamorously began to refer to as my "Week of Weed Wellness." Through exploration of cannabis art therapy, weed yoga, a slew of self-care products, and a CBD oil massage, I was ready to be pampered and to get (and stay) as high as humanly possible.

This was, I thought, a dream assignment. However, I would wind up completing this mission during the same week the state of Michigan ordered more than 150 medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit to close due to a lapse in a new regulatory framework that requires all dispensaries to apply for approval.

These bumpy machinations are nothing new to the medical marijuana community in Michigan. But despite an unreliable legal framework, patients and entrepreneurs are rising above the bullshit.

Some names have been changed. All services require a valid medical marijuana card.



click to enlarge MICHAEL E. BURDICK
  • Michael E. Burdick

High art
Puff, Puff, Paint

When I first hear about Puff, Puff, Paint, I immediately think of Painting With a Twist, with the image of the universally quirky aunt and a shitty acrylic still-life of a wine bottle that is proudly displayed in her kitchen popping into my head. A riff off of the basic girls' night out, Puff, Puff, Paint had an extra something Painting With a Twist did not — weed.

Started in 2015 by MJ and art therapist Kay, Puff, Puff, Paint's mission was to start a less familiar conversation about the healing properties of sweet, sweet, cheeba.

"We wanted it to be more patient-oriented, not your typical stoner event," explains MJ. "You have to be tenacious when you do something like this. The law is changing. We're losing venues, but getting other ones. We have no choice but to press on."

When I sign up for one of their Puff, Puff, Paint events, MJ and Kay had just lost the use of their home venue due to a raid at a THC expo event the week before.

"I'm sorry this is so chaotic," MJ says. "This is our first time here. It's not usually like this."

In the basement of an undisclosed location in a multipurpose space, easels, pallets, and cups of water are passed out while Kay gives each artist a canvas. The subject matter for this class is the iconic Detroit skyline which Kay had already drawn onto the canvas for us to fill in. While we settle into our stations, everyone gets busy with the task at hand — smoking.

Like most of the weed-friendly activities in the city, Puff, Puff, Paint does not provide cannabis. For $30 they provide the service, supplies, guidance, and venue. Kay, who has a master's degree in art therapy, encourages us to start with the outline of the buildings. By this point, almost everyone has already begun blazing and I have already torn into one of several bags of munchies.

One woman was celebrating her birthday with us after Googling "weed events Detroit." "Art and weed? I was sold!" she says. "Now y'all just need to provide some nude male models to get this popping!"

Though Kay provides a suggested rasta-themed color palette, she is quick to remind us that all colors are available to us. This sticks with me. I am high and channeling Pocahontas vibes — painting with all the colors of the wind.

"The marriage between creativity and cannabis together really works. It's beautiful," Kay explains. "You feel more open. It's helped me as an artist and has helped me manage pain and anxiety. Working in the industry, cannabis is one billion, trillion times more effective than pharmaceuticals, which have become a huge crisis. Why not just use something natural?"

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An hour into our painting, my hands are coated with a layer of acrylic paint and Dorito dust. I decide to take pause and peep at the 12 other masterpieces in the making. Some had drawn rainbows over the city. One woman freehanded a park because "kids are the future" and the artist across from me kept shaking her head. "I have no idea what I'm doing," she says, laughing. Kay gives positive feedback as she paces the room. When she reaches my painting and says nothing, I realize that maybe I had gone too rogue.

"I'm so high I made a political statement," I say, laughing using my Slurpee straw to point at the burning buildings I had added along the bottom.

"That is very unique," she assures. "I love how different these all are."

MJ, who has a son with special needs, says medical marijuana has made a drastic difference in his life. "He suffers from schizophrenia and his antipsychotic medication has given him a movement disorder called dystonia," she says. "The cannabis calms that down, he doesn't really have that anymore." MJ suffers from systemic sclerosis, a condition that causes severe joint pain and inflammation, and is more manageable through the use of cannabis.

"Puff, Puff, Paint was born from struggle and adversity," she says. "The feeling of being an outsider and having to hide what helps me."

By the end of my nearly three-hour Puff, Puff, Paint experience, I had devoured all three bags of snacks and my Slurpee, and created a painting that would likely be displayed in my basement, under the stairs, hidden out of sight, and never to be seen again. I am not an artist. But thankfully, that's not what this was about. The stresses of the week fell away as I balanced a joint and paintbrush between my fingers, and I am filled with silliness as I catch a glimpse of my masterpiece from the passenger seat on my way home. There are worse ways to spend a Friday night.

Information for future Puff, Puff, Paint events can be found at eventbrite.com or by visiting facebook.com/puffpuffpaint.org; Classes are $35 donation with advance registration, and $40 day of.



click to enlarge MICHAEL E. BURDICK
  • Michael E. Burdick

Higher self
Elevated Yoga

At first thought, yoga and weed see somewhat counterintuitive. The art of breathing paired with smoking? Then again, does it not make perfect sense to combine the two? I was prepared to high-five angels.

The 4/20 friendly studio, Elevated Yoga, hosts High Noon, Yindica, Hybrid, and Slow Burn classes Monday through Saturday. Thanks to a neighboring dispensary, Utopia Gardens, Elevated Yoga is able to support free yoga class to card-holding patients on Thursday nights.

Class starts with what is referred to as "sesh," a 30-minute smoke session and an invitation to connect with your breath, body, and fellow toking yogis. Participants are welcome to bring their own joints, vapes, pipes, bongs, bowls, and rigs, but thanks to Utopia Gardens, everyone was given a fat pre-roll upon registration. On this particular night, nearly 25 people cram into a room that comfortably holds 15 and the temperature flirts with Bikram levels as the room filled with smoke. Normally, my social anxiety might skyrocket in such close quarters. Instead, I am excited to be close to strangers even if our only interpersonal interaction was passing joints from one end of the room to the other.

It should be noted that I had not done yoga regularly for more than five years. In addition to not being the most flexible person (on account of those gnarly titanium rods I mentioned earlier), I am not known for my ability to stay focused (on account of my crippling neurosis). This would normally propose several challenges, but only after 20 minutes of smoking I am high enough to take them on.

Our teacher Lauren Williams makes me feel in control of my body and ensures that there is no right or wrong way to strike a pose. While others gracefully press themselves from their mats through a series of sun salutations, I give in to child's pose (which is ultimately just laying down) on more than two occasions. My legs are shaking, my arms are rubbery, and my core is weak. I am out of practice.

Instead of feeling powerless or inadequate, though, I tap into my heightened awareness, deepen my breath, and convince myself that I was capable of anything. This sensation is not comparable to drunken fearlessness or impaired judgment. This is a spiritual unpacking of stress and self-doubt that just so happened to be in a room of sweaty, stoned people.

"Yoga connects me to my breath and I can focus on bringing my breath into my body, which offers healing," Williams says. "Some of these people have been stabbed, have fallen out of airplanes and their parachute didn't open. I get to hear so many stories about pain, and oftentimes the only solution some of these people have is cannabis as their medicine. And yoga is movement medicine."

Williams says she was "nervous about people's judgment" at first. "There are a lot of yoga teachers in the yoga community that smoke weed," she says. "And they use it for the same healing reasons, but not everyone wants to put themselves out there. So, this was already happening. Now there's a space for patients where they feel comfortable to talk to one another and practice. I will teach yoga to anyone. I will go to jail and teach. I teach children. So, why wouldn't I do this? This is what I do."

As practice nears the end, I take to the boat pose with confidence despite the aching of my stomach muscles. Lauren leads us through some cooldown movements from a seated position and has us place our hands on our hearts.

"The light within me honors the light within you," she says. "Namaste."

Before we can bow our heads, a voice emerges from the back of the room: "If anyone would like dabs come on back."

The room bursts into laughter and we collectively shake out our sore limbs, peel ourselves from the floor, and continue our journey to connect with our highest selves.

Elevated Yoga is located at 2930 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-444-9264; elevatedyogi.com or email elevatedyogi@gmail.com; Single classes are $10, monthly memberships are available for $50 donations.


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High-end
Green T Residency Spa

I would be lying if I said this was not my most anticipated weed wellness activity. Up until last month, I had never been professionally massaged. This may be hard to believe considering my history of pain. If I've learned anything during my week of weed wellness, it is that self-care does not come easily.

Originally, I book an appointment for a CBD oil massage offered by a newly beloved Detroit spa. When I arrive, however, I am told that the owners had chosen to decline their inclusion in my story as they were concerned about being associated with 4/20 or stoner culture. I am told that their older clientele might get the wrong idea. Despite my protests, I leave the spa massage-less and tenser than I had been when I walked in. My week of wellness was feeling pretty unwell.

A day later, and I get a message from my friend, artist, creative director, and medical marijuana goddess, Kristin Adamczyk.

"I think I can help," she says. As ambiguous as that sounded, I had no choice but to trust her. My story was losing steam, er, smoke.

There are two prominent cannabinoids found in cannabis — CBD and THC. These are the most studied and most understood elements, and the easiest to explain. To put it simply, THC is responsible for the "high" feeling, and CBD is non-psychotropic, meaning it will not alter consciousness or perception. CBD provides pain relief, anxiety relief, and aids in the reduction of inflammation, nausea, seizures, muscle spasms, and psychosis, to name a few. Both THC and CBD offer pain relief and elicit different effects by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system. In short, our bodies were made to process cannabis. One is not better than the other, but like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they work best together. Mmm. Sandwiches.

Michigan is one of 29 states that have legalized the medicinal use of hemp-derived CBD oil. CBD oil from marijuana, however, is still considered illegal (unless you're a registered medical marijuana patient.) This explains why some establishments might choose to keep their CBD use on the down-low.

Adamczyk recently teamed up with masseuse and bodywork specialist, Zeena Marouf for their latest endeavor, Green T Residency. A female-owned and operated pop-up service, Green T is inspired by ancient Chinese tea time and honors reflection, multistep therapy, and self-care.

"There is an entire market of patients who want luxury, beauty, and wellness solutions that are just not being reached," Adamczyk explains. "We wanted to focus on the experience aspect. Patients shouldn't feel bad about their interest in alternative medicine."

Through the use of Michigan-made products and personally made CBD- and THC-infused topical recipes, each spa treatment is thoughtfully curated from a menu that consists of massage variations, topicals, and take-home items to prolong the effects of the treatment.

Adamczyk and Marouf agree to provide a hands-on demonstration of their services before their official launch. When I arrive at Adamczyk's loft, I am greeted with a cup of CBD oil infused lemon tea (a featured Green T Residency menu add-on) before being asked to discuss my pain-filled past. Though it is offered to me, I decline the floral pre-roll before my treatment as I wanted to feel the sensations from the products more purely. Before I know it, I am out of tea and it is time to disrobe and get my rub on.

In keeping with the citrus theme, I choose Michigan Organic Rub in Lemon. This would be applied to my problem areas, which happened to be my hip and lower back, as Marouf warms coconut oil infused with CBD drops for the better part of my treatment.

What happens during my massage is hard to say, as it is as close to an out-of-body experience as I had ever had (save that time I took Molly and went to Theatre Bizarre). OK, so I'm not rolling or tripping but I have achieved new levels of euphoria as Marouf takes on the impossible challenge of making a disabled woman feel invincible.

Her focus for my therapy was activating acupressure points from my face down to my toes. Whereas most massage therapists are scared to touch someone with fusions or surgical hardware, Marouf listens to my body and in turn, I melt into her movements. She uses her forearm to wiggle those nasty pinched nerves from my shoulder blades, opening my wings with her elbows. When she reaches my problem areas, she whips out the medicated balm I had selected earlier and works my hip in circles, which aided in the blood circulation of my tender muscle. The balm provides a deep-tissue warming sensation.

This is perhaps the most enjoyable hour of my whole damn life.

When the massage ends, I stand up and instantly feel as though I am standing straighter. I feel taller, my muscles vibrate with pleasure, and for the first time in years, I have forgotten that I was in any way broken.

Marouf encourages me to drink plenty of water, as hydration is key to healing muscles and detoxification.

"I've been a massage therapist for 12 years and I've learned that massage is just one tool," she explains. "Using cannabis in my practice just seemed like a natural thing — like exercise or drinking water. Self-care is so important, but this is just one piece of the puzzle."

On my way out, I am given a hemp-derived CBD patch by Pure Rations to take home, and leave with a newfound appreciation for my body and all that it is capable of — even if that means feeling good for just one night. My massage is both a wake-up call and a call to arms, back, neck, and legs. If our bodies are in fact temples, I was determined to worship at the Temple of Jerilyn every damn day.

For questions, inquiries, and Green T Residency updates, email GreenTResidency@gmail.com.

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Lube
Me, My Wife, and Trees

When I ask the budtender if cannabis personal lubricant was intended for internal use during intercourse, he doesn't bat an eye. "That's the idea," he says. I can't wait to put this to work and thankfully for me, my partner is down to do the deed. However, when it comes time to getting nasty, I forget the lube downstairs. So, we have to go another round. Poor us.

Labeled as a slightly numbing massage oil and personal lubricant, the Me, My Wife, and Trees product contains THC-infused coconut and cocoa butter and an aphrodisiac blend of essential oils. Normally, I steer clear of any lube with warming or numbing properties. (Flashback to the time I thought to use K-Y warming jelly and upon insertion, my vagina became an instant volcano and I ran to the bathroom to splash water on my bits. This was not that.)

I first apply the oil to my partner, fearing a similar reaction as my previous experiences. The consistency in the jar is hard and salve-like, which made me question its lubrication properties. But when it interacts with the heat of my palms, it transforms into a silky oil, and the sweet and earthy smell erupts as it is applied. Within minutes, my partner tells me he feels a warming sensation and when asked if it was too intense, he eases into his pillow. "Not at all."

Eager to try this myself, I hop on. Though I do not experience the numbing as listed on the jar, the warming is subtle and surprisingly pleasant. We change positions to make sure we are properly exposed to the lubricant and before we know it we both reach climax more quickly than usual. This is most impressive considering it is our second hump sesh that day, and usually that means we have to be a bit more patient.

Unlike slippery, oily lubes, this is not something I feel the need to wash off or rinse. The smell is intoxicating and soaks into my skin like moisturizer after 20 minutes of play. Back door to oral, almost instantly we begin plotting all the fun ways we would experiment with this all-natural product. At $40 this seems like a luxury, but after one use is a bedroom necessity.

Suite B Provisionary Center, 27332 Michigan Ave., Inkster; 313-228-5648; suitebmeds.com; Personal Massage Lubricant, $40 donation.



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Bath bomb
Me, My Wife, and Trees

Move over, LUSH, there's a new bath bomb in town — and it's loaded with CBD. First, it should be said that we all should take more baths. Life is hard, work sucks, and baths are our friends. Me, My Wife, And Trees strike again.

The bath bomb comes in both small and large varieties, and several different scents. I choose the large Sour Tangie because it smells like a goddamn smoothie. What's in this bad boy? A natural blend of coconut oil, rice bran oil, essential oils, flowers, herbs, charcoal, Epsom salt, and CBD.

After recovering from Elevated Yoga for, like, three days because I am wildly out of shape, I decide to reward my creaky ass body with a soak and oh my god am I glad I did.

It is recommended to soak for at least 20 minutes to experience the full effects. Well, three episodes of Frasier and several gallons of hot water later, I feel like a noodle — heavy, tired, and cooked all the way through. I am prepared for the nap to end all naps. And I do. But I wake up sometime around 9 p.m. and have to wrestle with waking up or calling it a night. I have to assume the product lived up to its promise. It's pretty hard to feel pain or stress when you're passed the fuck out in the middle of a Saturday.

This item has scored a recurring spot on my grocery list.

Suite B Provisionary Center, 27332 Michigan Ave., Inkster; 313-228-5648; suitebmeds.com; Bath bomb available in various scents, $7-$20 donation.



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Hemp raw sea salt scrub with roses
ADA-East

OK — so this product takes a minute to fall in love with, as the smell was rather intense. The scrub contains Epsom salt, raw sea salt, vitamin E, hemp oil, raw roses, and fragrance. The instructions are simple — add oil. It took a few variations of grapeseed oil (a preferred favorite for glowy skin) and essential oils. I strike out a few times as the fragrance included in the product was hard to complement. But then I hit the magic combination of lavender oil with a whisper of sandalwood. After mixing my ingredients with the ones from ADA East, I pop into the bath and got my loofa ready. Scrubs, for me, are best when scrubbed onto the skin and left to sit and soak for a the length of Guns 'N Roses "November Rain" (this is a great timer for most things — face masks, tea steeping, pregnancy tests, etc.) At any rate, after Slash's solo, I dip my scrubbed skin under water and am excited by how smooth it is. Though I think it was a bit of teamwork — my oils and their scrub — smooth skin is worth a bit of elbow grease.

ADA East, 16555 Harper Ave., Detroit; 313-571-3108; adaeast.com; Inquire within.



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Pure Green Tablets

When I meet the unofficial "Godfather of Clinical Trials" Stephen Goldner, I find it hard to believe that he was the same man who created the urine drug test, formulated liquid Methadone, and who most recently revolutionized an odorless, tasteless, long lasting CBD tablet — the antithesis of big pharma. Pure Green tablets come in four varieties — pure sleep, pure relief, pure calm, and pure bliss. What makes this product unique, aside from the fact that it is not yet available on dispensary shelves, is the process.

Each tablet is composed of pharmaceutically purified THC and CBD terpenes selected to enhance the aforementioned effects. As directed, I put the tablet under my tongue and wait. Within five minutes, a calm feeling creeps over me — but not in a way that is easy to describe like most medicines. I've taken edibles and tinctures and have felt completely immobile for hours. Pure Green, however, allows me to function on it and go about my family duties without tripping balls and without feeling the tightness along my spine that normally persists. Goldner hopes to expand the product to suit other specific needs like PTSD, Opioid addiction, and nerve disorders. Until they're made widely available, I'll be keeping my secret stash in my purse with my Ibuprofen and vape pen.

Pure Green Tablets, $36 donation for the pack of a dozen, check your local dispensaries in coming months.



click to enlarge MICHAEL E. BURDICK
  • Michael E. Burdick

The come down

A few years ago, I was told by a respected orthopedic specialist that my spinal myelopathy would leave me wheelchair-bound by the time I am 40, which means 10 years from now I may be rolling more than just fat joints. This has been looming over my head ever since it was told to me and up until now, I have ignored it.

Because that's what we do when something feels out of our control, right?

As of 2018, marijuana is still classified nationally as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is in the same category as heroin. Yes, that heroin.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that there have been zero deaths related to marijuana overdose — ever. Whereas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016 alone.

Though 30 states have broadly legalized marijuana in some form, eight have even legalized recreational use, and marijuana possession accounted for over 5 percent of all arrests in 2016 — which means more people were arrested for weed than rape, murder, and all violent crimes combined. To put it simply, at least one American is arrested for marijuana possession each minute.

My week of weed wellness was more than an extended spa day, it served as a reminder of how far the industry has yet to grow. And that growth? Well, that starts with us. If we can smoke, we can vote, and a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana is expected to be on the ballot in November.

As for me, my week-long quest for marijuana-infused rejuvenation was largely successful. I have since divorced the belief that pain is something I have to live with. Instead, my pain is something I can choose to live without. Thanks to like-minded individuals who take risks and the high-road, I have so many options not only to manage my condition but to rise above it. I am canna-blessed.


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