From Georgia to Colorado: My Medical Cannabis Journey

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Photo: Alan Fay

Venice Beach, early in the trip
Photo: Alan Fay

The first time I realized that cannabis is my medicine, I was on vacation in California. It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime: starting in LA, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, and staying in San Francisco for almost two weeks.

Then my worst nightmare happened: I ran out of cannabis, ironically in the state most people used to think of first when listing marijuana-friendly places. Instead of enjoying the vacation, I almost ended up back in the hospital for my pain condition on the opposite coast from home.

My pain condition started when I was 17, consisting of debilitating and extremely painful headaches, migraines, muscle spasms, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. I was in the hospital for three months. I had to drop out during my senior year of high school, and started suffering panic attacks due to the rising anxiety that the pain would never end. I endured too many tests, including 7 spinal taps, just for them to tell me I had a congenital disorder and that there was really nothing they could do about it. My course of treatment was “pain management”- basically teaching me how to bear it without making others acutely aware and uncomfortable around me and my pain.

On my own, I discovered that cannabis was far more effective at managing my pain condition than anything else. When I ended up without it, I realized just how much it helped me in ways I didn’t understand.

My partner and I started making plans to move out of Georgia as soon as possible. We couldn’t afford California so we kept our eyes open for other states might be making progress with medical marijuana. Luckily, Colorado legalized; it was somewhere we wanted to live, and, most importantly, we could afford it. We visited last year and fell in love.

RELATED:Georgia Marijuana Laws

lookout mountain

The view from Lookout Mountain in Colorado.
Photo: Joy Ogozelec

It wasn’t as easy as simply packing boxes and getting here.  I had to give up the first job I’d really enjoyed in a while. I had to say goodbye to my family and friends, and to Georgia, where I was born and raised. It cost a lot of money to move and, although I don’t mind the minimalism, our house here has only the most basic furniture (for now).

Since moving here, my health is dramatically improved. It’s been two and a half weeks since I saw a doctor for my red card. It was a moment I’ve waited so long for but didn’t think it would happen in this country. I got to be fully honest with a doctor about how much cannabis had helped and he believed me. I cried because that moment was justification for all the times I’d put my personal freedom in jeopardy because of a plant. I am finally safe and this feeling is priceless.

I’ve found tinctures and Mary’s Medicinals patches to be astoundingly effective with no negative side effects, unlike the dozens of pills I tried in the past that have caused further damage to my sensitive system. And now that it’s legal here, I can finally be honest with my family about my use. My mom upon hearing cannabis was my medicine of choice exclaimed, “Thank goodness, at least it’s not Botox!” Everyone else in my family is thrilled that it works so well.

RELATED: State by State Medical Marijuana Laws

Moving for my health was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but I realize I am privileged to have been able to do so. Part of the reason I tell my story is that a lot of people who could have substantially improved lives aren’t allowed to even try cannabis. A lot of people aren’t in the financial position to move to another state. A lot of people are suffering and dying because they aren’t allowed to see if this plant could help them. A lot of people are silent because they’re scared their medication could be taken from them if they were honest.

Those of us who can talk about it, must.