Some folks are simply destined to help others; Maria Frost is one of those people. For the past 15 years she’s worked as a caregiver—assisting clients with everyday domestic tasks like housekeeping, eating and errand-running. Only in the past two years has she found herself caring for cannabis plants, as well as her aging mother.
Born in San Diego, California, Frost has happily spent her entire life on the west coast. After living in Washington for 19 years, she followed her parents to Oregon in 2005 once her mother, Kathy, was forced to leave Tennessee due to severe environmental allergies and progressive medical illnesses.
“More people should have an open mind about people treating with cannabis.”
Kathy suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. It started in her hands before affecting her knees and shoulders, and it keeps spreading. She also has bursitis—inflamed bursae or fluid-filled sacs—in one of her shoulders. As a cannabis caregiver, Frost cultivates all of her crops on private grow-space and uses the harvest to manufacture salves and full extracted cannabis oil for her mother’s chronic pain.
Before she was designated as Kathy’s caregiver, Frost would accompany her mother to dispensaries. As a fellow medical cannabis patient, this was never an issue. But after a series of disappointing purchases, Frost decided to research how cannabis products were made and then began crafting her own. Her mother uses the products every day—without them her pain is so severe she would require prescription opioids.
All caregivers within the state of Oregon are legally allowed to care for up to four patients and can grow up to six mature plants per patient. Frost says she would love to increase the number of patients in her care, but the space required is too great and the fees too costly (Oregon law requires a $200 registration fee to treat each patient). Moreover, the extraction machines required to produce quality cannabis oils are expensive, ranging anywhere from $300 to $3,000. Frost says the legalization of recreational cannabis might be to blame for the increasing prices.
“Ever since things have become recreational in most states, that’s over-shined everything else, and medical is kind of disappearing,” Frost said.
Frost shared that caregivers are also having a hard time maintaining patients, due to increased costs. “People can’t afford it . . . I know a lot more people that would grow for a lot more patients, but the prices that it’s costing them to give the state is not allowing them to help patients out anymore,” Frost said. “They’re having to drop their patients.”
However, Frost also recognizes the benefits that have resulted from legalization. Most especially with the senior community who has been slow to embrace medical cannabis over prescription pain medicine. “When they do, I’ve noticed them say ‘oh, well this isn’t so bad,’” Frost said with a chuckle.
As a caregiver, Frost says she’s seen tremendous change in the patients choosing to abandon opioids for cannabis. She has heard patients report that they can function better without dizziness and nausea, which helps promote a better appetite. But she also knows that being a cannabis caregiver—despite its medicinal benefits—isn’t for everyone. Though that doesn’t mean doubters shouldn’t weigh their options.
“More people should have an open mind about people treating with cannabis,” Frost declared with enthusiasm as we ended our conversation. “I would recommend anyone thinking about it or [anyone who] has a sick family member to absolutely check into it. Keep an open mind.”
How to Become a Cannabis Caregiver
There are currently 29 states with medical cannabis programs, but each state approaches medical cannabis differently, and not all states with medical programs allow for cannabis caregivers. However, anyone able and interested in becoming a caregiver will follow a similar procedure.
Be Designated: In states where caregiving is an option, the caregiver is required to be selected by the patient.
Be of Legal Age: This varies by state, but a potential caregiver must, at a minimum, be at least 18 years or older.
Be Approved: After a caregiver has been designated by a patient, they must submit a formal application. Potential caregivers must also be free of any prior felony convictions.
Be Paid in Full: Caregivers, like patients and dispensaries, are required to pay fees for applications and cultivation sites. Treating multiple patients often requires multiple fees be paid.
Since caregivers are responsible for the well-being of their patients, it is crucial to have extensive knowledge surrounding cannabis. Caregivers often cultivate a limited supply of crops for their patients, manufacture products like oils and salves, procure products from dispensaries and assist with administering medicine at proper dosages. Many patients have debilitating medical conditions, so caregivers should be well-versed in treating a variety of illnesses.