Advocate of medical marijuana hosting educational meeting Wednesday

Idaho Falls

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated Lezhai Gulbransen was speaking at the event, which was in error.

IDAHO FALLS – Nathanial Pickering is on a mission to educate people about the medicinal benefits of marijuana in the hopes of getting it on the ballot in 2020.

Pickering’s advocacy group, Idaho Cannabis Education, is hosting a meeting Wednesday night to inform the community about the positive effects of medicinal cannabis for people with chronic pain or illness.

“We want to get the accurate information out there. There’s a lot of new research going on with it right now. As it comes in, we want to get it out to local people who are interested in learning about it,” Pickering tells EastIdahoNews.com.

Originally from southwest Montana, Pickering helped legalize medical marijuana in his home state in 2004. Several years later, he was hit by a drunk driver in Montana and crushed four vertebrae in his back. He spent the next six months in a brace, leaving him unable to work.

“(Doctors) had me on all sorts of pharmaceuticals, which destroyed me,” Pickering says. “I went to my doctor and told him there has to be a better way. He recommended medicinal cannabis.”

Not fully onboard with his doctor’s advice, Pickering sought a second opinion and was given the same recommendation. Pickering did his own research and was convinced.

“I haven’t had a pharmaceutical outside of an ibuprofen since,” says Pickering. “The pharmaceuticals definitely helped with the pain, but it destroyed my guts. I couldn’t go to the bathroom for weeks at a time. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was losing weight like crazy. As soon as I started with medicinal cannabis, it was a complete 180.”

Pickering points to several new developments in the world of cannabis research. In one study, for example, use of a cannabis nasal spray helped stop one child’s seizure in 20 to 45 seconds, according to Pickering, and significantly reduced the number of seizures he had in a year from thousands to just two.

Another study, Pickering says, shows different forms of cancer have been eliminated from the use of medicinal cannabis.

Pickering says medicinal cannabis leading to addiction is a common misconception.

“There are a lot of studies right now that prove it is not an addictive substance. A lot of states where (medicinal cannabis) is legal, it’s being used to get people off of opioids, and it’s proven very successful,” Pickering says.

But Lezhai Gulbransen, the executive director of the Bonneville Youth Development Council, thinks differently.

Gulbransen, who focuses on preventing substance abuse and suicide among local youth, says not enough research has been done to prove whether cannabis has a positive or negative impact on the body.

“We don’t want our youth to be guinea pigs,” says Gulbransen. “There is a lot of research that shows how much of a risk cannabis is to the developing brain. A Harvard study has shown our youth are susceptible to developing mental health issues such as schizophrenia, especially if there is any family history of mental health issues.”

Gulbransen is concerned with what message it sends to youth when people talk about the positive impact of medicinal cannabis.

“(Youth) have access to (marijuana), even though it’s illegal here,” says Gulbransen. “If adults and parents don’t see (medicinal marijuana) as a high risk to themselves, the youths’ perception of risk (for recreational marijuana use) is (also) very low, and we have a lot of issues with that.”

Though medicinal cannabis is illegal in Idaho, there have been efforts to make prescription CBD oil legal in the state to treat severe forms of epilepsy. Medicinal cannabis is legal in nearby states of Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Montana.

RELATED: Prescription CBD oil could soon be available

The Idaho Cannabis Education meeting is happening Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside The Gem at 216 First St. in Idaho Falls.

Speakers at the meeting include David Lybolt, an advocate in Pocatello, Dennis Hansen, an advocate for Hemp education, Jasmine Kinney, owner of the International Institute of Massage Therapy, and military veterans Ryan Parker and Matthew Davis.

Dennis Hansen of U.S. Hemp Roundtable

Pickering says everyone is welcome to attend and voice their opinions and concerns.

“People are out there — they’re just scared to speak up,” Pickering says. “It’s something we need. It’s something that’s very prevalent in the world right now. The majority of the U.S. population wants it, uses it and is very successful with it in many aspects. So I’ll be that guy to stand up and say, ‘Let’s discuss it.'”

Pickering says this meeting will be a monthly event. To learn more, visit the group’s Facebook page.

RELATED: Proposed bill would let first-time marijuana offenders have conviction dismissed

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