Topical Cannabis

Cannabis and Massage Therapy in Oregon


In the 2015 election cycle, Oregon voters decided to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, making it the third state behind Colorado and Washington to do so. The legal sale of recreational edibles in Oregon began on January 4 of this year, and the legal sale of recreational topicals began on June 2. Once the general public was able to purchase topical cannabis oils legally, the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists (OBMT) permitted licensed massage therapists to use recreational topicals in their massage practices. Therapists still may not apply any topical obtained by a medical marijuana card (either the therapist’s or the client’s), as it is not within the scope of practice for a massage therapist to administer any medications or prescriptions. The OBMT allows for the use of topical recreational cannabis provided both the therapist and client are of legal age (21 years and older), the therapist has obtained written consent from the client, and the therapist wears latex gloves or some other barrier to apply the topical. Additionally, as the sale of marijuana is highly regulated by the state, therapists may not charge their clients any additional fees for the use of topical cannabis in a massage, nor can therapists sell cannabis topicals in their offices. The full OBMT policy statement can be found here.

But what does this change really mean for massage therapists in the state of Oregon? On July 13, the AMTA Oregon Chapter hosted a panel discussion with several suppliers of cannabis topicals to answer therapist questions. Present at the event were Sally Alworth from Luminous Botanicals, Trista Okel from Empower, and Erin McClaskey from Sacred Herbs Medicinals.

Cannabis topicals comprise CBD-only oils and oils that contain both CBD and THC, two of many components found in the marijuana plant. The most therapeutic oils are thought to be those with both CBD and THC. Referred to as the entourage effect, it is believed that these components work better together than in isolation.

Perhaps the most common question from massage clients with regard to cannabis massage is “How high will I get?” The simple answer to that is not at all. CBD is not psychoactive, and although technically, THC is the psychoactive component found in marijuana, it needs to be absorbed into the bloodstream in order to create the “high” feeling. THC is nontransdermal, meaning it is not absorbed through the skin when applied in topical form, therefore it will not enter the bloodstream. Using a topical with THC can hypothetically have a psychoactive effect if allowed to enter the bloodstream via open wounds or mucus membranes; however, massage therapists are not massaging either of those areas on clients.

Once clients realize they won’t be getting high from a cannabis massage, their next question typically is “Then what’s the point of cannabis massage?” Although there have not been many large clinical trials using topical cannabis to date, small independent studies and anecdotal evidence points to far-reaching analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis topicals. Many people who have used cannabis topicals have experienced relief from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, sciatica, spinal stenosis, skin conditions (such as burns, eczema, psoriasis, and bed sores), asthma, lung inflammation, allergies, cancer, and neuropathy.

For best results, apply cannabis oils more frequently rather than in stronger concentrations. The one exception appears to be neuropathy, which does better with a higher potency oil. Neuropathy also seems to respond better to a THC dominant oil (3THC:1CBD), while CDB-dominant oils seem to be better for skin conditions. The strongest recreational topical available currently has a potency that is less than 6% (60mg/mL); however, in most cases 0.125% to 0.5% is strong enough to be therapeutically effective. A full strength cannabis oil can therefore be diluted quite a bit and still be therapeutically effective. Cannabis oil can be diluted in any carrier oil such as almond or coconut as well as mixed with other essential oils; however, mixing cannabis oils with emu oil or wood oils (such as sandalwood) may chemically alter the cannabinoids making them transdermal.

There are no known contraindications for the use of cannabis topicals. Due to the green chlorophyll in the plant, it is possible that cannabis oils may stain massage sheets.

Massage therapists in Oregon now are now positioned at the forefront of this cutting edge intersection in the alternative and integrative health community. The AMTA Oregon chapter is eager to support therapists who are interested in conducting research studies to help pioneer this burgeoning field. Stay tuned for future announcements on upcoming research workshops.