The new green thing 

Cannabis-leaf juicing is the new green thing

Jason Lauve juices daily. A drink of his might start with a couple of carrots, a cucumber or two, and some blueberries. Then all of that gets added to freshly pulverized cannabis leaves.

The fruits and veggies may change (and sometimes he adds seeds and nuts), but the primary green has been a part of the 44-year-old's mashup for about two years now. It's inspired by the work of Dr. William Courtney, a California-based M.D. who specializes in dietary uses of unheated cannabis, and Courtney's wife Kristen Peskuski, a patient and researcher who has used juiced raw cannabis to manage her systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other health issues.

Lauve, a former Colorado Springs resident who just recently moved back to Broomfield, has a long history with cannabis use in Colorado. Ten years ago, a snowboarder collided with him, leaving Lauve with a severe back injury and a pile of pharmaceutical medications that weren't helping him.

He turned to medical marijuana — which got him in trouble four years later, when police found more than 30 plants and 34 ounces of marijuana on his property, well in excess of the maximum permitted by the state. He fought the charges, was acquitted, and established what Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett later called "a pivotal case" around marijuana possession, given the defense's winning argument that a patient was allowed to have as much marijuana as was "medically necessary."

The defendant-turned-activist now runs an industrial hemp consulting business, and Hemp Cleans, a nonprofit working for the regulation and cultivation of industrial hemp. And he grows his own greens.

"What's really nice," Lauve says, "is that in the last eight months I finally have my own plants in my own yard. I've got a 12-foot-high hemp plant and multiple cannabis plants."

Lauve says growing your own plants is really the primary way to get enough juicing leaves regularly. "A couple of dispensaries ... are supplying patients with juicing, but you have to be part of a medical program, which to me is absurd because you don't get any psychoactive components from it. You can use, I think, it's like 50 times, 60 times, what you would use of activated THC, for example, to get a similar effect. We're obviously nowhere near that."

Because juicing cannabis is still a relatively new practice, he says that when he first started, there was a lot of experimentation involved. "When I was juicing hemp leaves, and doing a couple ounces at a time, the acids were very high, and so I found mixing it in with other juices and leafy greens and things like that made a big difference."

In terms of what the effect was, though, he says, "it was absolutely mind-blowing. ... Four to six weeks later, I felt like a completely different person. The flavors I was experiencing had shifted. I didn't want sugars anymore. Mind you, I was also using hemp seed at the same time.

"It felt like I was going through a detox in the beginning, if you will," Lauve adds, which he chalks up to years of pharmaceuticals having accumulated in his system. "My whole body kind of purged all this nasty stuff out of it and immediately started to heal."

Of course, Lauve's experience with juicing raw cannabis is anecdotal, as is much of the discussion out there about it. But as he explains, research is growing about the benefit of organic acids on health issues, whether they come from spinach, citrus fruits, sour milk or, in this case, cannabis.

Nissa Wecks, owner of Ola Juice Bar, can attest to the benefit of those acids — the non-cannabis ones at least — and more generally, to the benefits of juicing for health concerns. "It makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients because it's not having to go through so much of the digestive process when the fiber is extracted from it," she explains. "It's more quickly uptaken, basically, by the body, so it immediately goes into your system."

And, Wecks mentions that while Ola doesn't juice cannabis, she has customers who do — as did her aunt, before she passed, to help in her fight against cancer.

One of the primary advantages that does seem to be agreed upon in the industry is that, unlike ingesting psychoactive medical marijuana, taking fresh leaves gives you the health benefits without the high. (You do have to make sure to use a slow auger machine, instead of a fast grinder, Lauve says, because the heat caused by the friction will break down the nutrients.)

"In my mind, this is gonna be one of those sort of gray areas, where this falls into an essential foods or ... a foundational-foods kind of thing, versus a drug or pharmaceutical kind of thing," Lauve says. "Do we do tests on lettuce, and onions and tomatoes in terms of nutritional value?"

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