The shifting tides of cannabis legalization mean that generations who have lived their entire lives under prohibition are now learning about or returning to medical cannabis.
Some who have avoided cannabis for most, if not all, of their lives are finally coming around to see the medical benefits of the plant.
Pamela Wallace, 71, takes a 10-
milligram THC gummy before bed most nights.
A resilient woman, Wallace started having panic attacks at age 13 but taught herself to control them through exercise, diet and medication. She began suffering from back pain while in graduate school but waited years before having back injections and surgery.
“I did a lot of exercising. That helped for a while, and then it became to the point where I just couldn’t function well,” Wallace said. “I had a break, and I did back surgery. Stupid. This was in ’98 when the FDA first approved this type of surgery where they put all the metal in your back. Mistake. It did not take the pain away. It made it worse. And I have a really high pain tolerance. After the back surgery, they had me on two medications. I couldn’t take anything that would in any way inhibit me mentally. I was an academic, and I had to keep going.
“So I went back to my doctor. And he said, ‘Why don’t you try the back injections?’ Now that was the worst thing I ever did. Let me tell you why. In 2002, I had that done and the nurse anesthetist that was there injected 65 of us with hepatitis C, and I was essentially down for 13 years. Lot of pain, and just exhaustion and fortunately, I was able to get the medication that actually killed the virus. I was one of the first ones, thank goodness. But then I couldn’t go back, obviously, to academia. I’d been out too long. Naturally ended up on social security disability, which is not my cup of tea. I prefer to work, but I had no choice at that point.”
After rebounding from her hepatic illness, Wallace traded her career as a cultural anthropologist for one as a court-appointed special advocate. Then she started suffering pain again and was diagnosed with another illness.
“For almost two years, I was doing incredibly well. I had my energy back. I felt wonderful. And then I was suddenly absolutely exhausted again with all that wild pain,” she said. “I thought the hep C was back. It wasn’t. It is my immune system. They call it fibromyalgia. Being an academic like I am, I start looking it up, and that’s where I found the studies in the UK that some people who have had viral infections, that immune system won’t shut down completely and it comes back. And those are the days that are most painful for me. So I don’t have my energy like I used to, but the THC was a gift. I put it off and put it off, and now I can at least rest at night, or if it’s exceptional during the day, I can take a gummy and know my day is done. I can do nothing else.”
Wallace said her family had been trying to convince her to try cannabis, but she was resistant.
“I don’t tend to give in, but I had to. I’ve had severe chronic pain for a long time, and for the most part, I could deal with it. But there are days I couldn’t, and so I decided to give it a shot and did, and it is rather miraculous. I take it if I need it. At night is preferable, before I go to bed,” she said. “I actually started with just half of one, and it helped. It didn’t take the pain away, but it was tolerable during the day. And then it was one night, I thought, ‘Okay. I can’t do this anymore,’ and I used a whole one. It does affect you. I couldn’t take it during the day and function very well. Let’s put it that way. I tried once, and I thought, ‘That was it. Huh uh. Nope.’ That was rather funny. It was about one o’clock in the afternoon, and the pain had escalated. And I thought, ‘You know, maybe if I can get a handle on this, it won’t get any worse.’ That must have been the first time I took a whole one. It kind of just kind of laid me out in my chair for a while. And then I thought I was fine until I go to walk the dog about nine o’clock that night. The neighbors must have thought I drank a whole bottle of scotch or something. I was staggering.”
Wallace had not touched cannabis since her late teens or early 20s, when an incident made her shy away from the plant.
“My brother smoked a lot, but it was a whole different ball game back then,” she said. “There was a point where my brother came over to my apartment, and he had some hashish, and we smoked a couple of bowls and I became paranoid and I thought, ‘Okay, that’s it. I’m done.’ So I didn’t smoke any more after that.”
Wallace is considering going back to inhalable forms 50 years later, as that relief is more immediate than edibles, which take an hour or longer to take effect.
“I think I want to try vaping and see if that’s a little better for me. The pain varies, and I don’t really care about being high and happy. I just want the dadgone pain to go away,” she said.
Cannabis has allowed Wallace to now sleep soundly through the night.
“It’s incredibly good,” she said. “I just completely relax and sleep very well. I don’t toss and turn as much, and I can tell that because when I try to get up, at my age, I’m stiff because I haven’t turned around much during the night.”
She feels no lasting effects in the morning. Nor does Molly Ford, who also takes a tincture at night to relieve her pain.
Molly Ford was in a car crash in December of 2017 and spent 24 weeks in rehab. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer this year. A combination of a topical as needed and a tincture before bed each night has gotten her back to her previous level of productivity.
“I take the oil at night,” Ford said. “I go to bed without any pain, without an ache in my whole body. If I could take it during the day, I would never have an ache. The lotion stops the pain.”
Ford said both products she uses are from CBD Plus USA’s Colorado Cures line. She takes a 2,500-milligram tincture,” Ford said. and the pain cream she uses won a High Times Oklahoma Cannabis Cup last month. She is from Texas and has traveled to Durant to replenish her supply as needed, but a little of the cream goes a long way with her. Ford is on her second bottle of cream since started using it six months ago.
“Just one little squirt will really take care of your hands,” she said. “I’ve got rheumatoid arthritis bad. I’ve had that for 15 years, so this has been a blessing for me, a real blessing.”
Ford, 77, works in real estate and hopes the hemp market moves into her state very soon, as she has people who are primed and ready to start hemp farms. However, she has never been a fan of cannabis.
“I darn sure didn’t like the word ‘marijuana,’” she said. “I didn’t want any part of it and didn’t want my family to have any part of it. I don’t like anything that makes you high, so I said, ‘To heck with this marijuana,’ but when I got some of the cannabis and realized there’s absolutely no high to it, it’s the most wonderful medicine I’ve ever seen. I went to my doctor before I took the first, my family doctor. He said, ‘Go for it. I wish they’d make it legal,’ was the very words he told me.”
The tincture does not make her feel any psychoactive effects but still takes away her pain.
“The minute I put that under my tongue, I feel the pain disappearing out of my whole body and I’m asleep in five minutes,” she said.
Ford first tried CBD after a friend recommended it emphatically. Since starting CBD, she has convinced her son, who played football for 14 years and has had longstanding issues with his hands, to use the topical as well.
“He called me the next day; he said, ‘I used that stuff an hour ago, and I can grip my hand,’” she said. “Within a day or two, he had just about as much strength in that hand as he ever had. He’s sold. He’s absolutely sold.”
But Ford remains resolute about avoiding the plant’s intoxicating effects.
“Never a joint, but we can sure rub this lotion or drink that oil,” she said. “I’ll take a shot of this oil while you smoke that joint.”