Surterra opened a dispensary in Jacksonville last week, bringing the total choice here to 3 MMTCs (along with Trulieve and Knox). I used their $50 introductory discount to get a variety of products, and overall, am quite pleased. So here is a brief write-up of what I like, along with a few minor points where I think there is room for improvement.
Why I Medicate
The first thing I should say is that my evaluation of any medical marijuana is shaped by my medical condition. I have panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD. Low doses of THC can be good for me, but if I get too much THC too fast, that generates anxiety or even a panic attack. I find that CBD is uniformly good, it is relaxing without the possible side effects of THC — but CBD alone is not enough for me.
Surterra’s Soothe and Serene Products
Surterra had a somewhat different strategy when they started. Instead of featuring strains, they put most of their effort into standardized products with fixed ratios of CBD and THC. These products are also formulated with natural terpenes that are designed to make a product relaxing or stimulating. Their goal was to make products that are consistent in their effects, and geared to different conditions. Surterra has recently added a few named strains to their offerings, but their defined products make up the bulk of their catalog.
I bought the Serene vape stick and tincture oil (with a 5 CDB to 1 THC ratio) and the Soothe vape and tincture oil (with a 1 CBD to 1 THC ratio). I like both vapes. I haven’t opened the tincture oils yet, as I have been experimenting with the vape products and they have provided relief.
The Serene product line is quite good for daytime use. One to two seconds on the vape leads to relaxation, and the tension and pain I carry around in my upper shoulders and neck is quickly and noticeably dissolved. I don’t feel sedated or intoxicated with this product line – it takes away the tension and leaves me feeling uplifted, open, and better able to function.
I have been prescribed benzos for decades, and they are good at bringing the anxiety down, but they make it hard to do anything productive – they make me want to sleep most of the time. And (being an anxiety ridden person) I am afraid of becoming dependent on the benzos, so I only take them when I have a full blown panic attack (once a month or so). Serene has most of the upside of benzos, without the downside. Serene is something I can use every day.
The Soothe product line (1:1) is more powerful, and it is also more euphoric and sedating. Soothe is what I take when I am ready to cut loose from reading, math, and other linear activities I have to do through the day. For some people, that comes at 4:20 in the afternoon; for me, it is more likely to be 6:20 or 7:20 in the evening. A brief pull on the Soothe vape pen gives a mild, pleasant THC experience. It opens me up without setting off alarm bells in my brain (which THC-only products often do). This small, manageable dose is like having one or two beers (without the liver-killing effects of alcohol). This lets me switch gears and move away from my daily stress. This moderate dose of THC in the evening also helps with my sleep.
Part of the benefits from Soothe are probably due to the CBD it contains – Cannabidiol is anti-anxiety, it also reduces the tendency of THC to cause memory issues, loss of coordination, etc. Originally, hashish from the middle east contained a 50:50 mix of CBD and THC. In the past few decades, western breeders produced strains that are mostly THC and almost no CBD. I think that this has negative consequences for many people like me. If you don’t have anxiety/panic/PTSD but you do have serious chronic pain, you might prefer a high THC product (and Surterra makes their Relief product with 1 part CBD to 9 parts THC for that). If you are treating Parkinson’s disease, you might be better with some other product. But I prefer the 1:1 ratio.
And part of the benefits from Soothe may be from the fact that each puff on the vape pen is less concentrated. It is easier to get a small or medium dose because the % THC is lower and each second of inhaling delivers a smaller amount. With vape pens from other dispensaries, it is easy to get too big of a dose, even with a short pull. Soothe makes it easy to ‘start low and go slow’ – I can reach the desired state without getting overly affected.
Both vape pens have a nice flavor. They bite the back of the throat a bit, but no more so than other distillate vape products I have tried. Aesthetically, the vape pens are quite acceptable. I am a little worried about the tincture oils, which have blueberry and almond flavoring – I prefer natural cannabis flavors. Pine, citrus, berry and other natural flavors can be nice if they are consistent with the cannabis experience – but some manufacturers overdo it, and the product is more like candy than cannabis. Some people like that, but I do not.
So I will definitely be going back to Surterra for more of the 2 products I have tested. They work for me – I can reliably reduce my anxiety to the degree that I need to. Of all the products I have tried so far from Florida’s MMTCs, these are my favorite. I like being able to ‘Goldilocks’ my anxiety, and after a few days, I am comfortable that I can reliably get into the zone of not too little, not too much.
Areas for Improvement
All of Florida’s medical marijuana industry is having growing pains. The state has come a long way in the past two years, but there are still things that can be improved on. Here are a few things I offer as constructive criticism.
* The Serene and Soothe Vape pens look too similar. The dispensary representative suggested that the pens be stored upright to prevent leaking, so mine are usually parked in a small coffee cup. But they look so similar that it is a bit of a chore to figure out which is which. They are the same size, same color, and the only real difference is in the tiny type on the label. The AARP members that use this product don’t like having to put on their glasses on and hold the pens up to the light to figure out which one is which! How about using two different colors instead of making them the same blue? How about putting two different symbols or patterns on them so that people who are color-blind can tell them apart easily?
* Each pen is rather small. They are a good value at $25 because they work so well, but it might be nice to offer an option with twice as much product.
* Disposable? Meh! The pens are designed to be a one piece system, no recharging the battery, no refilling or replacing the oil cartridge. That approach works, it is convenient, but it is kinda like the Keurig cups for making coffee … not very ecological or economical. I realize that no re-usable vape pen lasts for ever, but we should be able to get several months use from a rechargeable battery before disposing of it.
* Build Quality? The devices are labeled with a thick coated paper that is wrapped around the pen body and glued in place. One of mine was starting to peel apart when I opened the package. This is mostly an external, cosmetic thing (the quality of the pen itself seems quite good, in the first week, it has provided consistent delivery). This issue doesn’t really bother me, but was noticeable and needs mentioning.
The Label is Coming Loose