All month we’re digging into how your experience with legal weed will vary depending on where you live, and what differences to expect in states with medical cannabis or adult-use cannabis. On today’s episode, we go deeper into the medical side of weed and talk through why medical cannabis is often the last thing women try – and the first thing that works.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Christine De La Rosa (00:06):
Since 2015, 2016, I’ve literally only used cannabis to treat my lupus. Mind you, I have 11 doctors that I see once a year.
Christine De La Rosa (00:16):
That December 2015, I went to see all 11 doctors, the hematologist, the neurologist, the cardiologist, and every one of them were, “Oh my God, you look so great,” because I wasn’t walking with a cane, I wasn’t hunched over, I didn’t have this really sickly pallor. They’re, “What are you doing?” I remember being so proud to say, “Taking none of the medications you prescribed for me, so that’s what I’m doing.” They all wanted to know, “Well, what are you doing?” I was, “It’s cannabis.”
Ellen Lee Scanlon (00:44):
Welcome to How To Do the Pot, a podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (00:52):
This is the second episode in our Legalization 101 series where we’re digging into everything you need to know about the differences between medical and adult use cannabis markets.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (01:05):
If you’re wondering what type of market your state has, be sure to check out our map on dothepot.com and I’ll also link to it in the show notes.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (01:15):
As we talked about in last week’s episode, these differences matter because whether you or your local officials voted for medical or adult use cannabis in your state, decisions made by lawmakers will ultimately affect everything about how you buy weed even though actually consuming medical and adult use cannabis may have more in common than you think.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (01:42):
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Ellen Lee Scanlon (01:56):
In today’s episode, we’ll hear stories about the ways that three different women consume cannabis as a medical treatment, and you might start to notice a pattern. Cannabis often has fewer side effects than prescription drugs.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (02:12):
You just heard from Christine De La Rosa, the CEO and founder of The People’s Ecosystem, which is not only a retail dispensary in Oakland, California, but a community organization that educates people about cannabis and health.
Christine De La Rosa (02:26):
It was around 2010, I just got really, really sick. I almost died from a pulmonary embolism from undiagnosed lupus. And then spent the next five years suffering with the symptoms of lupus and the chronic illness and the flares and all of that and was on about 11 pills a day. Five of them were opioids that I could take at any time for pain. And then I went and got a monthly infusion at the hospital just so that I could walk with a cane. Otherwise, I was pretty much home bound because I couldn’t really move.
Christine De La Rosa (02:58):
It was in early 2015, I started really to try to focus on holistic medicine because I had been now sick for five years and had not at all gotten better, but only proceeded to get worse and less ambulatory, and less existing in the world. And these particular five years were my highest earning years in tech.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (03:20):
Christine had been a successful database architect for most of her adult life, but lupus was now ravaging her health and threatening her career.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (03:31):
After suffering through five years of 11 pills a day, monthly infusions and walking with a cane, Christine was ready to try something different.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (03:42):
When a friend invited her to a women’s cannabis conference in Colorado in 2015, she went. She could barely walk at the time.
Christine De La Rosa (03:51):
I learned so much from those two hour and a half sessions. When I got back to Oakland, I started to look up everything around cannabis and CBD and THC. And I went to Harborside. I got my medical marijuana card having no idea what I should buy to treat lupus. I knew what I should buy if I wanted to get high. I knew what I should buy if I wanted to do an edible. But as it pertained to what I was experiencing health wise, I didn’t know.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (04:20):
Growing up in Texas, Christine hadn’t been that interested in cannabis for reasons we’ll definitely talk more about in the next episode.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (04:28):
Once she found her way to a medical dispensary in California, she wasn’t sure what to try.
Christine De La Rosa (04:34):
I ended up buying a bunch of different things, flour, vapes, edibles, gel caps. That was really my first experience and I bought as much as I could afford because I knew I was just going to have to do trial and error.
Christine De La Rosa (04:45):
It took me about nine months to find the regimen that I needed. And my regimen consists of both CBD and THC. CBD for the inflammation that my body is constantly in, THC to help get regenerative rest. Because when you’re in pain and anybody who’s in pain constantly from a chronic illness or chronic pain, you know that even when you go to sleep, you don’t actually go to sleep because your brain is constantly processing that your body is in pain. It took me about nine months till I got to that regimen. And also in those nine months, I was able to wean myself of all 11 pills and the monthly infusions.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (05:26):
As you heard at the beginning of the episode, Christine’s 11 doctors couldn’t believe the positive changes cannabis made for her symptoms and her overall wellbeing. Even though some of her doctors were skeptical of this self-administered treatment plan at first, they came around and support her use of cannabis to treat her lupus.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (05:46):
Six years later, she’s still going strong with her regimen and she’s passionate about helping others find the same relief that she did. The fact that Christine’s doctors ultimately supported her, makes her one of the lucky ones. Other women have faced doctors who are less open-minded and more dismissive of positive experiences with cannabis, which I have to say is a way too common problem for women talking to medical professionals about challenging health issues.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (06:16):
Timeka Drew, the founder of the cannabis brand, Biko Flower, knew this all too well, so she was afraid to even tell her doctors in Indiana that she was trying cannabis to treat her Crohn’s disease.
Speaker 4 (06:30):
Where I was and the doctors that I was dealing with, I really wasn’t sharing that particular journey with those doctors at that time. Then I moved to Los Angeles pretty quickly thereafter, and I found a lot more of a receptive community of medical professionals that I could start talking to.
Timeka Drew (06:51):
Coming from Indiana. I felt like a lot of what we were hearing just wasn’t true. This whole, “Weed is medically legal in California”, it just seemed like a fairy tale that people were telling about this cool state. I was really, really encouraged to find out that it indeed was real and there were people taking it incredibly seriously at a whole different level from what I was aware was possible at the time.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (07:18):
Timeka had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 18 and a sophomore at Catholic University in Washington, DC.
Timeka Drew (07:25):
I was on a full ride scholarship, or academics. And I was the captain of our debate team. And we were at a debate tournament and one of the coaches actually saw me vomiting and noticed that I was vomiting blood. This coach was just, “Timeka, you have to go to the hospital.”
Ellen Lee Scanlon (07:50):
Timeka was diagnosed with Crohn’s soon after, which is an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive tract causing inflammation, swelling, and even scarring.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (08:00):
She had been healthy before this, but soon her Crohn symptoms were severe. She had constant stomach cramps, frequent diarrhea and vomiting often with blood in it.
Timeka Drew (08:12):
I started having to take pretty regular trips to the hospital so that they could monitor the amount of blood that I was losing.
Timeka Drew (08:19):
I started to lose a lot of weight. At my lightest, I was under a hundred pounds at five nine. I was still eating regularly. I was eating a lot still, but I wasn’t absorbing my nutrients properly and I just wasn’t gaining any weight. I wasn’t digesting my food either. It was passing through.
Timeka Drew (08:42):
These were all areas that kept getting worse over time. You start developing hemorrhoids, you start developing all of these different things that by themselves, you can treat and it’s not as big of a deal, but when they’re all happening together, it just felt like my body was under constant battle.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (09:02):
Just like Christine, Tamika’s doctors gave her a lot of prescription drugs to treat her symptoms.
Christine De La Rosa (09:08):
I was taking for the most part Bentyl for my pain, Asacol for regular management, Sulfasalazine for regular maintenance, and I was taking prednisone for my flare-ups. I was also taking a variety of other experimental and antidepressant drugs here and there to see if they might work. I was also taking suppositories for my hemorrhoids and things like that, but these were the main treatments that I was taking.
Christine De La Rosa (09:44):
Humira, I believe came out and the biologics started to come out right towards the end of my college career. I remember they were 25,000 for an injection when they first started. My doctor told me that they thought they could get the first injection covered, but after that, I would have to pay and my insurance wasn’t really going to cover much of it at all.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (10:11):
For Timeka, the financial strain of treating her Crohn’s disease with all these medication, especially at such a young age, became overwhelming.
Timeka Drew (10:21):
One hospital visit was 50 grand. And when you start to go to the hospital on a regular basis and you start to get these bills, you just come to terms with the fact that now you’re not going to have any good credit for the rest of your life. At 18, 19 years old I knew, “Maybe I’ll never be able to buy a house because I have Crohn’s disease.” This is just the reality, but I’ve got to try to stay alive, I’d rather [inaudible 00:10:47] be able to rent than not be alive.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (10:51):
By the time she was 22, she was desperate for another option. The financial burden, her persistent symptoms, the side effects from all her medications, these were all taking a toll on her mental health. She began feeling suicidal, then decided she may as well enjoy life and started partying and that’s when she found cannabis.
Timeka Drew (11:13):
I started smoking at parties and I would realize that after I would smoke at a party, I’d come home and I would actually feel decent for a couple hours that night. Started talking to people about it a little more and they would say, “Oh yeah, actually cannabis is used as medicine.” Started doing a little bit of research and saw that people were using it for gastroenteritis and for digestive issues and for nausea and cancer patients.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (11:41):
Going off so many prescription drugs also helped with Timeka’s financial burden, but that’s not always the case for medical cannabis patients.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (11:50):
Kelsey Ledezma is a California-based floral designer who you’ll hear more from in our next episode.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (11:57):
Starting when she was only nine years old, Kelsey went through two and a half years of chemotherapy to treat cancer. Her very last chemo treatment ended up giving her nerve damage from the waist down. These days she’s a full-time wheelchair user and cannabis helps her manage the significant pain she faces every day.
Kelsey Ledezma (12:18):
When you have spinal cord injuries, I think a lot of times people think that things just cut off and that’s it. And that’s not really the case. I have what’s called hypersensitivity. If you had a feather brush up against your leg, you would feel it and be, “Oh, feather touched me.” If a feather brushes up against my leg, my entire lower body goes into full spasm and locks up.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (12:42):
This kind of pain affects everything about Kelsey’s day from the activities she can do to the clothes she can wear. But cannabis has helped.
Kelsey Ledezma (12:51):
It affects places that I’m able to even sit in my wheelchair dependent on how the ground is because I will shift around and that will cause spasming. The use of cannabis has really dulled that down. It’s not so bad anymore as the spasms don’t happen at a constant rate, they aren’t as strong as they could be. And more than that, it dulls them to the point where I can trigger them to use them to my advantage.
Kelsey Ledezma (13:20):
If you can trigger your body to spasm in the correct way so that it’s holding itself up and you can move yourself around, it makes things a lot easier. It’s something that I found that I can do with cannabis and not necessarily something I can do on a prescription medication because those are just full stop. For me, it’s an important part of my daily routine using cannabis.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (13:44):
I can’t unhear stories like this, and it makes it very hard to accept that cannabis is not available to more women and people who are suffering.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (13:56):
Since Timeka found her way to the plant as a treatment for her Crohn’s, she’s become an executive and founder in the cannabis industry. Today, she’s an incredible advocate for patients and she shares where her energy is focused now.
Timeka Drew (14:11):
The cause within the cannabis industry that means the most to me right now is definitely community building and creating safe spaces.
Timeka Drew (14:22):
There have been so many people who have been harmed by the war on drugs. There’s also been so many people who have needed to utilize cannabis for their survival. And then there are also so many people who are a part of cultures where cannabis has been demonized for so long and it makes access very difficult.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (14:46):
As much as it upsets me, for many people, there is still a social stigma that comes along with weed, even for women who fit society’s “Idea of acceptable medical uses.”
Ellen Lee Scanlon (15:00):
I hope that hearing Christine, Timeka, and Kelsey’s stories help you feel more comfortable with the plant and those that choose to consume it. If you think it could help someone that you love, please share this episode with them.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (15:14):
If you want to learn more about cannabis and autoimmune disorders like lupus, and Crohn’s, we talk to Christine and Timeka and share their personal stories as well as medical professionals who help us understand how to talk to your doctor about cannabis in episode 64 and episode 67.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (15:33):
And be sure to tune in next week when we’ll talk about why so many women love weed for the wellbeing and stress relief it helps provide. It’s our adult use episode, and you won’t want to miss it.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (15:50):
For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com and that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter which comes out every other Friday.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (16:02):
And if you like How To Do The Pot, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts, it helps more people find the show.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (16:10):
Thanks to Madi Fair, our brand manager; Nick Patri, our producer; and our writer, Anna Williams.
Ellen Lee Scanlon (16:17):
I’m Ellen Scanlan and we’ll be back soon with more of How To Do The Pot.