Cannabis Student Spotlight: Dan Caracciolo

Toymaker, Medical Marijuana Patient, Advocate

Seattle Central College's Cannabis Institute is one of a select few education programs approved by the Washington Department of Health to train medical marijuana professionals. Washington is currently the only state with this level of agency approval for such training.

We naturally expected to have students who were interested in working in retail marijuana stores and serving the public. What we didn't foresee was that the Medical Marijuana Consultant Certificate Program would attract people from throughout the US and beyond, who are simply interested in expanding their knowledge of medical cannabis. Our alumni are a mix of retail employees, store owners, nurses, massage therapists, graphic designers, patients, patient providers, and more.

Dan Caracciolo is an excellent example of the unique group of students we work with at the Cannabis Institute. Hailing from Hilo, Hawai'i, Dan was a small business owner who started one of the first environmentally-friendly cleaning businesses in Seattle. He's also a medical marijuana patient.

After retiring, he joined WWOOF and volunteered in Italy to pursue his love of organic agriculture and the slow food movement. While there, he learned to make fine wooden toys, which he crafted until he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

As Dan began his treatment, he found that the medications he was taking made him feel even sicker.

"I was incapacitated," he recalls. "I was an avid cross-fitter and, if not for the core strength I had grown, I would not have even been able to sit up. I was immediately put on a low dose chemo drug to stop my body from attacking itself. Slowly, with dietary changes and medication, I was able to stand and walk but not without pain. I have since been on almost every RA medicine there is."

Dan realized he would need to find another way to effectively manage his condition, which led him to discover the therapeutic properties of cannabis.

"One day, two months after I was diagnosed, a dear friend gave me some cannabis cream she had purchased," Dan remembers. "I tried it on my swollen joints, and within about 15 minutes I began to feel relief."

This discovery inspired Dan to begin experimenting. "I had to learn more about cannabis, so I began to look at cannabis as a modality for healing myself," he notes. "I made my own cream, adjusting the dosage to what I had learned might help me. It was amazing."

But crafting his own medicinal remedies was only the beginning.

"I soon learned how to make Cannabidiol (CBD) capsules," he says. "I requested a medical marijuana card referral from the doctor, and she agreed. I learned to grow cannabis organically and made high CBD teas for myself to drink in the evening and lotions for my joints. A quiet fell over my body. I read as much as I could get my hands on -- from research papers to people's personal experiences."

While Dan had found a number of ways to use cannabis to manage his RA, he was hungry for more knowledge.

"With my discovery of cannabis, my whole world has opened up to the possibilities," he recalls. "I needed to learn as much as I could, so I enrolled in the certification at Seattle Central. It has been an eye opener for me. I love the science of cannabis and the ways of using it to heal the body."

Even though he's not a professional, Dan found the certificate program to be highly beneficial.

"I have learned so much from this class, and I will continue to learn," Dan states. "It is a very comprehensive program covering all matter of information and debunking the false information about cannabis that is out there. I especially love the science of the plant and learning how it complements the body's ability to fight disease."

Dan realizes that there is still a lot of misinformation out there, which causes many people who could benefit from therapeutic marijuana to avoid using it.

"Cannabis is more than a recreational experience and it can and has proven to be a healing modality," he notes. "Cannabis is not for everyone, and my healing is also based on lifestyle changes, such as diet. All the people I have helped made no changes to their diet and they have experienced amazing results from cannabis use. No one needs to fear cannabis, but one needs to know what they are doing, how to use it, and how to respect the way the plant can heal the body."

Dan plans on using his newfound knowledge to become an advocate for change, working with lawmakers and regulators to advance the regulation and legalization of the industry, with a special focus on patient protection.

"You have given me the science to better understand cannabis," Dan says.

We are regularly reminded of the rich diversity of the cannabis community, and that it's made up of a great variety of voices, talents, and passions. Working with and empowering students like Dan is how we're continuing to contribute to the development of this important industry.

Follow Trey Reckling:

Trey Reckling is the founder and operator of the Academy of Cannabis Science. He works in collaboration with Seattle Central College's Cannabis Institute to offer quality, science-based education to members of the burgeoning legal cannabis industry.