Some things “cement” to be!
They give you a bell to ring if you feel stressed or panicked. She was wondering why I didn’t ring the bell but I was just in my own place, visualizing the healing through peace and harmony. Jack Maxwell
Jack Maxwell grew up in Boston, Massachusetts as a humble Southie boy with big city charm. You may recognize him as the host of the popular Travel Channel series, Booze Traveler, which is dedicated to traveling around the world and experiencing local cultures and their drinking customs. The show is always entertaining and fans have been left wondering what happened to Jack after the fourth season wrapped. As it happened, Jack filmed the last two seasons of Booze Traveler while fighting a battle with cancer. The cameras are still rolling today, but Jack’s new journey involves his experience with cancer and cannabis.
In his new series, The High Road with Jack Maxwell, Jack is exploring the new and expanding world of cannabis medicine, per his doctor’s recommendation. He’s experiencing the medical culture surrounding CBD and THC with an open mind, just like he would a strange fermented brew with locals in a faraway land. Watch The High Road episodes plus Q & A conversations and interviews on Facebook and YouTube now. New episodes air weekly on Friday nights at 8:30 E/T. We sat down with Jack to learn more about the man behind the booze traveling and welcome him to the colorful world of cannabis.
What’s it like growing up in Boston?
I think people have their own experiences growing up and don’t think it’s out of the ordinary until you compare it to something else. It’s only in relation to what you know. In the D Street Projects where I grew up, in the 60’s and 70’s, there was a lot of Vietnam war stuff, a lot of racial tension, a lot of domestic violence and people setting cars on fire. This was South Boston or “Southie” like in Good Will Hunting. The projects are the worst part but you get used to it as a kid walking around the neighborhood. It’s like that Jackson Browne song, Boulevard, that goes “Everybody walking by like they’re safe or something.” It was my neighborhood and I didn’t know any different.
Then when I turned 13 we moved out to Phoenix, and it was just so quiet and peaceful. On Indian School Road and 10th Ave. I couldn’t believe how soft the world seemed in Arizona.
I came back to Arizona in 2017 for Chemotherapy treatment after living in California since 1996. I’ll probably have to go back to LA for work but I love the peace and quiet here in Arizona.
Do you miss famous Boston pizza like Pizzeria Regina’s?
I have tried a few places here but I haven’t found anything on the west coast like Pizzeria Regina’s or Santarpio’s in the North End of Boston. I’ll let you know if I find a place, I’m still looking! The first thing I do when walking through Faneuil Hall is grab a slice of Regina’s pizza.
How did you land your first role on TV?
I was living in Las Vegas and I took classes with my friends for a year or so and then moved to LA. My first guest star was Beverly Hills 90210 and then Charmed.
Photobombed with positivity and light!
Did you have any experience with cannabis before cancer?
Yes and no. It was on an episode of Booze Traveler in Nepal. We were with the Babas, or Holy men, and they drank this thing called Bhang Lassi, which is marijuana mixed with spices like fennel seeds and then blended into goat’s milk. They grind it up in a big stone bowl and pass it around in a communal way for everyone to drink. I didn’t know how my body would respond but I want to feel things when I ingest them. I like knowing that I’m alive and I definitely felt this marijuana-infused drink.
How do you prepare for Booze Traveler episodes?
I had to do very little to prepare for before filming. Our wonderful production company, Karga 7, would handle everything. Travel Channel took care of every detail and I just had to be in the right mindset and ready to go. I’m not going to say it was easy, it was sometimes hard traveling and waiting around for things to line up. Sometimes our plans would fall through and it was a matter of having patience. Ultimately, it enriched me wonderfully and I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity.
What was your favorite city to visit during the Booze Traveler?
Just outside Palermo, in Sicily, there’s a small little town called Ciminna where my ancestors come from. It was amazing to learn about my family history and be welcomed so warmly by my distant relatives. Also, I love Barcelona. Vienna is great. It’s so cold and gray and romantically Eastern European. Budapest is incredible. Right in the middle of Istanbul is like going back in time where East meets West. If you ask me tomorrow I might give different answers because in the first season alone we went to over a dozen countries. Turkey, Iceland, Spain, Austria, Peru, Mongolia, Japan, Nepal, Lithuania, Armenia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Belize, plus Tennessee and Louisiana. That was just Season 1 and they were all amazing. We visited over 60 countries while filming four seasons of Booze Traveler.
You never had any type of “bar fight” or anything like that during filming?
There were a couple times where we got out of a jam. There was a bar in Oulu, Finland where it was national Graduation day and everybody’s drinking. Keep in mind the sun stays up until eleven or so at night. A drunk guy kept pushing me at the bar so I finally turned around to say something and he took a swing. I made him miss and blocked his arm right into his girlfriend and the side of her head. She’s drunk and starts screaming, “Ah, fuck you!” and all that. Next thing you know, I have him headlocked in front of me and the bouncer came and threw him out. That was one of a few instances where we came close to having a problem. I could have tried to hurt him but this was a situation where just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
What type of cancer are you battling and how were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed in April 2016 with non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The first thing I wanted to know was how far gone I was. My Oncologist doesn’t measure in “stages” since it’s an autoimmune blood disease and it can come back at any time. We do not use the word remission and technically the cancer could return. Normal lymph node size is 1cm. Mine was 10.5cm when I started treatment.
What treatments did you take?
I started practicing positive thinking, self-healing exercises, and meditation... like, a very eastern type of reducing stress and looking at the world for what it is, and not what you want it to be. Then on the next scan, the growth had gone down some. And then again on the next scan it went down again. Then I went back on the road to do two more seasons of Booze Traveler.
Who suggested CBD/THC as possible treatment?
Well they didn’t suggest it for the cancer. I had heard of CBD but I made a decision to follow the regimen of my Oncologist, whom I trusted. I left LA to come back to the desert thinking it would be more healing and peaceful here, which it absolutely was. I got an apartment and decorated it all mid century modern. Colorful, light and airy. Your environment is important. You wake up to it and live in it.
Part of the process.
From Boozing and Traveling to The High Road…
When I was diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma I felt guilty, like I got the easy cancer to beat. It’s on the easier side to recover from as cancers go, but bad if it comes back. I had not used cannabis except for that one time in Nepal and had to start chemotherapy right away. When I went in the nurses wanted to know what was up with all my positive mindset stuff. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t just fooling myself. They came around.
I got a silk eye mask so I could focus inward and try to sleep. The treatment room is like a big mani pedi salon except with crying and pain. I downloaded the most beautiful instrumental song I know, which is, “A Time for Us”, The theme song to Romeo & Juliet, and combined this with the facemask to zone out and stay positive. That was my release.
I never said, “F Cancer.” I never said, “F Chemotherapy.” Just accepted the treatment into my body to do its job and then expelled it when it was finished. I looked at it as a positive because it was going to help me.
Each session of treatment is six hours and during the first day the nurse came over to me to change the drip IV bag and she asked if I was okay. I was like yeah I’m fine. I thought I was talking in my sleep or something. She questioned me like, “You just look so peaceful, I want to make sure you are okay?”
Isn’t it funny how you go to sleep by pretending to be asleep?Jack Maxwell
Don’t get me wrong, I had some headaches and minor flu-like symptoms but I had prepared my body to accept it. When I would close my eyes to fall asleep, I would see paparazzi lights in my face like bright flash bulbs from a vintage camera. I was bombarded by mostly side effects of the chemo. I went to the doctor and she recommended CBD. I took a CBD broad spectrum tincture and the paparazzi lights started to fade and I could sleep again. Without sleep you have no health and without health you have no life.
What was your opinion of cannabis before cancer?
I had avoided it my whole life because I was told as a kid that cannabis was the same as heroin. Nixon made it a Class 1 drug in 1970 and he hurt a lot of people. We were lied to for racial reasons and for economic reasons and anyone who does this to control a population is wrong. I have seen the effects of THC and CBD first hand and it’s changed my mindset. As an adult, I was never against people using cannabis but I didn’t realize the benefit of improving one’s quality of life.
I’m not saying cannabis is a cure all and I’m not saying it’s magic but it’s helping so many people. If you care about each other then why would you want someone to suffer if they avoid it? How can you be for opiates and against cannabis? I’m not saying opiates don’t have a functional place in the short term but why are they acceptable for long-term use? It’s my understanding at that point they become more harmful than helpful.
What is your preferred method to medicate with cannabis?
I use tinctures and full spectrum CBD/THC products and I also like gummies. I’m not a smoker and never really have been. The gummies and tinctures are what I like the best and I will start using a salve for my hip and knee issues.
I love my THC salve, it works like magic on my sore muscles and joints!
Cool, but you know why that’s sad? We think of natural remedies as magic because we were misinformed for so long. If we accepted cannabis the whole time, if Harry Anslinger didn’t outlaw it in 1937 with all his government friends, then it wouldn’t be magic because we would have researched it. It’s crazy that we think of natural remedies as magical. It’s like if we never ate oranges and then tried them and said hey this magical fruit cures scurvy!
Have you tried cannabis extracts (dabs) yet?
I tried distillate vape pens and also a device where you load the concentrates yourself. They looked like little gold crystals of caviar that we were heating up.
What is the strangest cannabis product you were introduced to?
Besides the Bhang Lassi in Nepal? I mean you just don’t see that here in the states. I also tried CBD dog biscuits. I didn’t realize that pets respond well to doses of CBD but they do. We also tried the Volcano vaporizer which was pretty wild.
Not Today, Satin!
What else would you like to share with our readers?
It’s about quality of life. Not the length, we’re not turtles after all. I met a tortoise who was 165 years old. He was around when Lincoln was president. Blows my mind! That being said, no one goes around wishing to live that long, we all just want to have a good life. If you have cancer, then I’ll be your cancer buddy. I think nowadays, as part of humanity, that we owe it to others to say hang in there. I’m okay and you’re okay. Stay positive.
Watch Episodes of The High Road on Facebook and Youtube every Friday night at 8:30pm. The episodes are about five minutes long and each one has a short interview and Q & A session after the episode. Thank you Jack for keeping the cameras rolling on your personal journey back to optimum health.
Michael Cassini is the founder and editor in chief of The Cannabis Cactus Magazine. He focuses on community relationships with a goal to maintain a culture of love, peace and knowledge in the cannabis industry.