Bridget Dandaraw-Seritt

@bridgetdandaraw-seritt | contributor
Jacquelyn B

The Trauma of Adoption and Being a Birth Mother

Birth mother, birth parent, first mother, biological mother… each woman prefers a certain terminology when speaking about their adoption journey. Regardless of it all….you, the woman who gave birth, you’re a mother. I was never fond of being called a birth mother — but I was so saddened by the entire experience and feeling like I didn’t have a voice, so just stuck with birth mother. It’s as if I felt guilty taking the title mother… but felt disrespected like I was some baby-making machine. There are not enough stories about birth mothers. Not enough support. The stories you do hear are fictional stories and the birth mother is usually a young woman who either has challenges with addiction or very young and cannot parent a child. Then you see the Lifetime channel stories where the birth mothers are the villains. It’s so disgraceful. Birth mothers are strong, selfless, beautiful humans. They give someone the ultimate gift, something they were unable to do… I was able to bless their family with a beautiful baby. The reason for these stereotypes is because we are shamed into remaining quiet…because society views the parents who adopt the child as a savior. Not all birth mothers feel this way, but many do. Here is the raw truth of being a birth mother. Her birthdays are the hardest. The most painful. Waking up from the emergency C-section on that Christmas Eve morning in 2004. Seeing my daughter in the NICU for the first time, not yet knowing that this first time seeing her would soon be my last. I studied every single inch of her face. I counted her toes and fingers. Held my face gently close to hers so I could try to remember the sound of her breathing. I named her Faith. The hospital had given me a birth certificate with the name I gave to her. But that was irrelevant because she would be getting a new birth certificate with her new name and new parents. I appreciated the fact her new parents agreed to having her middle name be Faith. I really respected them for that. They didn’t have to do that for me. I left the hospital childless, with a fake birth certificate and the tiny little the hat she wore. I held that hat with me as I slept for months. I still have that hat, folded away in my dresser. Never washed it. Born at 26 weeks. Holding her… my god was that bittersweet. At this point I agreed to the open adoption, but nothing was set in stone. She was still mine. I remember weeping to the nurse who handed her to me when I would go see her in the NICU. She comforted me as she knew I was choosing adoption. The entire experience was traumatic. I didn’t want to leave her. Knowing what day I was being discharged was like a countdown, a countdown to a painful reality. It doesn’t get easier, time does not heal all wounds; maybe for other birth mom’s, but not for my journey. You just learn to put a band aid over your broken heart. You are told to move on, go about your life. I didn’t know how to. As each birthday passes I think “this is it, the year I am at peace with it all, I can move on with life.” Her 17th birthday just passed. This year was difficult. Every year is hard, but sometimes hits differently. Each year I’m overcome with so much sadness. Yes, this is my life and I had an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock. Yes, I take full responsibility for my choices, yes I was young but I was still an adult…I was 21 years old and in a toxic relationship. I say all this because no matter what there is going to be those people who are judgmental, insensitive and lacking any empathy. No matter what path I would have chosen, those same people would judge me. If I chose to parent I would have needed government assistance and other accommodations to get by. Then I am judged by some who say “I could never give up my baby.” As if she was a piece of trash I threw away. This enrages me, because adoption is not the easy way out. The path I choose was selfless and the most difficult decision I would ever make. It’s always the people who have no idea what life was like at that moment. You can’t win. Damned if you do, dammed if you don’t. Being a birth mother for me has been a very painful experience. I feel like I live a double life. It is a strange feeling. I really let the grief consume me… it made me feel so dysfunctional at times over the last 17 years. I really struggled thorough my journey. I struggled to come to terms with what happened, to accept what my reality was. I still struggle with adoption. Adoption is hard. Open adoption is hard. Being a birth mother is a feeling like no other, a feeling I wouldn’t want anyone to ever feel. It truly changes you. Being a birthmother is not something you want to be — you want to be a mother. I never envisioned this. The feeling of sadness where your heart literally aches — you’re heartbroken. You feel that knot in your throat trying to contain the emotions. I miss her. I miss everything I lost with her. I feel like I failed so many, not just her.The adoption agency was a joke in my opinion. Now that I am older, less vulnerable, wiser and more educated — I realized they will say whatever it takes to convince the birth mother her child is better off without her so their clients (potential parents) can have a baby. They make you think that it will be OK because they glorify open adoption as a choice. What they don’t tell you is there is nothing set in stone with open adoption. Once you surrender your parental rights, it’s over… that’s it. You put all your trust and hope in these parents not to do you wrong. You have no rights. The broken promises, the lack of support and therapy for the birth mother. They hand you a book called “How to say goodbye to your baby” or a book on open adoption, along with some pamphlets. Then they send you on your way. They wish you well and scoot you out the door. There is this awkward and unusual feeling.  Loving my (birth) daughter so much, but I don’t even know who she is. Even saying that out loud pains me deeply. That’s hard. Hard not knowing things a “mother” should know about her daughter. I knew more about her when she was little, when I saw her more than now. That’s what can happen in open adoption. Not by choice; I would love to have continued a close relationship, but as years went on phone calls stopped, visits stopped and getting updates and photos were mostly non-existent. I couldn’t tell you her favorite color, her favorite season, her favorite book or her favorite subject in school. I don’t know her favorite meal, or favorite desert. I couldn’t tell you what she aspires to become in life. I don’t know her favorite holiday, I don’t know her favorite song. I don’t know her favorite movie… so much I don’t know. They say the baby doesn’t remember being separated… Yet according to Adoption.org, “Experts have considered separation from a child’s birth parents, even as an infant, a traumatic event. Which means every adopted child will experience early trauma in at least one form. Everything the child had been used to, even in utero, the sights, sounds, and smells are gone.” I was looking at old photos of my (birth) daughter. I came across a few photos— these photos you see me giving a forced smile. I was miserable. These pictures she was still just a newborn. It was too soon to be watching another woman and man holding her. It felt wrong, unnatural… I can literally still feel the pain I was experiencing in that very moment. I questioned if open adoption was right for me. Every time I saw and visited her, it was like opening up that wound, over and over again… never healing. Every visit was a trigger. I had to stay involved. I didn’t want to lose her again. I wanted her to know who I was. I learned to become numb to the pain over the years. In these photos I was only about six weeks postpartum. Of course I wanted to see my (birth) daughter, but it was very uncomfortable. I was depressed, mourning my child, still healing from the c-section, still binding my breasts to help stop milk supply, my hormones were raging, I was experiencing postpartum depression along with everything else. I know under all the hurt, sadness, and pain… that I did what was best. I wanted her to have a beautiful life. To all the birth mother’s who are still in pain — and even to those who are at peace. You are amazing, don’t ever forget that.

Chronically Ill Facing Chronic Isolation

I grew up in strict environment where appearance, material acquisition, and climbing the corporate ladder were everything. Anything less was failure.  Happiness wasn’t part of this equation, and neither was disability. My family was a “no excuses” family. There was no reason one couldn’t be a jet setter CEO of some corporate enterprise, regardless of life’s intervention. I have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I’ve had them since I was a child. My body is literally dissolving on the inside with multiple soft tissue ruptures and eroded bones. Yet my conversations with my family are mostly about my ability and appearance. Sjogren’s is eating my teeth and my mother’s response was, “You need to get that fixed, you have to talk to people.” I went to a family reunion and couldn’t fold my laundry fast enough. I had two torn rotator cuffs and a fractured scapula. I wasn’t living up to the family standards and my level of disability was being ignored. I recently had autoimmune wasting and became the gossip of the family calls because I was “horrifyingly thin.” Society doesn’t want to see what they consider “imperfection.” I get stares when I’m eating out because I can’t hold eating utensils right. When I attend meetings, I can’t get dressed in business attire. I’m one of the only people who will show up to a state legislator meeting in my pajamas, and they can’t hide the looks of horror. I have a handicapped placard and need help getting in and out of my car. That gets all sorts of fun gawks from onlookers. All this eats at my self-esteem and creates the conditions ripe for isolation. I want to hide. I don’t want to go out. It’s too much to deal with. I don’t want to talk to healthy people and constantly have to explain that I’m being eaten by multiple diseases and no it isn’t contagious. I don’t want to go to evening parties when my dystonia is in full swing and it’s hard to breathe. Knowing people are uncomfortable seeing your very existence is a hard pill to swallow. But, you know what?  Screw that. I’ve always been a stubborn horse’s arse who likes to cause trouble. After over four decades of being chronically ill, I’ve found a couple ways to cope with all those desires to isolate and reduce my worth. I passionately believe that courage and strength doesn’t come from society’s idea of “overcoming your disability.” That translates to “pretend you aren’t disabled so we can say how inspiring you are.” Forget that malarkey. Real strength and courage comes from allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It means not always being positive. It means daring to be seen in our most vulnerable moments and sharing our stories. It means daring to be human and not accepting being “lesser than.” We are all different, but here are some things I’ve learned along the way that help keep me stubborn. 1. Don’t hide. Anyone living in a Western culture, lives under the specter of absolutes. There is a specific way to look, a concrete idea of what success is, an absolute way to think spiritually, and an unwavering definition of health. When we stop fitting those definitions, we become embarrassed and hide. We tell ourselves we have no value – that we aren’t human. We don’t deserve friends, don’t deserve happiness, and we are burdens. Society reinforces these absurd concepts, and we let them. Stop hiding. The more we hide, the more we believe these ridiculous statements. Guess what? You are still human. You still have value. You deserve to be loved and to be seen in society just the same as our able-bodied humans. A human is a human is a human. Don’t believe me? Look into how 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. So many amazing humans with such diverse disabilities came together and dared to be seen. They helped each other and caused a revolution in accessibility and inclusion rights. When we allow ourselves to be seen in our vulnerable moments, it helps give our fellow humans the courage to do the same. 2. Accept your mortality sooner rather than later. Yeah, it sucks. All are mortal and everyone gets to the end of their journey whether by illness, accident, or age. We spend so much time scrambling for a solution to our death problem, and it comes to all of us. Sometimes we reach the end of what medicine can offer. Sometimes there is nothing left to try and nothing more that can be done. Sometimes there is no “why.” Society tells us that medicine has a cure for everything, we aren’t eating enough kale, or maybe we need more hot yoga sessions. After that, we’ll all be cured, right? It’s great when we find a combo that works, and we get relief. I’m in no way saying to stop seeking care or trying things. Just don’t obsess over it and become attached to a cure for things that are most often incurable. This plays into the idea that we aren’t trying hard enough else we’d all be cured. This is a dangerous mindset and causes so much despair and depression. It eats at the very fabric that is our humanness and makes us genuinely believe we are lesser because we have disabilities. Don’t buy the bullcrap. Always try for improvement, but don’t obsess over your mortality. No one makes it out of here alive so don’t forget to live. Understand that accepting your limitations doesn’t equal giving up. It just means living your life free from the mental burden of not being “enough.” You are perfect as you are, disability and all. 3. Grow your friends who have chronic conditions, and not just the one(s) you have. We often lament the loss of friends when we get sick or become limited. Make new friends. There are thousands of us. Thousands. Get to know your community. Dare to venture out of your own disability or illness. Allow this to teach you grace and compassion. We often get wrapped up in our truths and start to believe these are absolute truths.  Meet people with epilepsy, arthritis, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, mental illness, spina bifida, etc. There’s so much diversity to choose from, and you know what? You’ll get your self-esteem and humanness back. You’ll see so many people going through similar struggles, being vulnerable, and still persevering. You’ll come to love these other humans and realize they love you too. You’ll start to believe you deserve that love and to be treated as a human. Just a plain human, no conditions. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself filled with friends and you’ve become stronger. We truly can move mountains when we stick together. I’ve seen it happen. Dare to be seen. Dare to love yourself. Dare to be human. Dare to be imperfectly perfect.

How Doctors With a 'God Complex' Contribute to Medical Gaslighting

“Lose weight.” “You look fine to me.” “Your labs are normal.” “Are you making this up for attention?” If you have a chronic or complex illness for any length of time, you’ve probably heard these over and over. This is the reality of having to navigate the American Medical Industrial Complex. The main discussions around “fixing” this system revolve around runaway costs and access to insurance coverage. However, there is another massive contributor lurking behind physician doors: ego and the God complex. I’ve been in this system for over four decades trying to seek care for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s, and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. That’s the shortlist. As a child with active autoimmune arthritis symptoms seeking relief, my diagnosis was delayed because doctors didn’t want to believe someone so young could have “arthritis.” Over a year and a half went by with doctors pushing physical therapy, which caused permanent damage to my right wrist. My labs showed significant inflammation but were ignored. This is not uncommon, especially with autoimmune diseases. In 2016, I had a C1-3 fusion for atlantoaxial instability from my hEDS. Within weeks, I realized something was very wrong. I had experienced muscle weakness prior to the surgery from the near-fatal compression, but now I had extreme pain in my shoulders and jaw. The pain in my right shoulder resolved some, but I lost the ability to use it without searing pain. That took a year. My left shoulder seemed to have the same problem and despite being my “good” shoulder, it was getting worse by the day. I was dismissed by physical therapy and told they didn’t know how to help me. My surgeon dismissed it as lingering surgical pain – but something was wrong. Over the course of the next four years, my shoulders deteriorated until I was hunched over and experiencing a suicidal level of pain. I visited over 20 doctors, each dismissing my symptoms and many gaslighting that these were even real symptoms. I was on the doctor merry-go-round and couldn’t get off. Four years later, I found my spine was collapsing, there were three large masses in one of my shoulders and I had wasting syndrome from a physician prescribing something contradictory to my illnesses. Know what else I confirmed? That 2016 surgery also had dislocated my jaw, permanently realigning it. Both rotator cuffs were torn, and my right shoulder was fractured. All of this had been ignored and my symptoms were dismissed by physicians. Ego-driven medical professionals had caused more permanent damage to my body and mind than all my illnesses combined. I wondered if I was the only patient dealing with this, so I checked around on social media. Come to find out, this is an extremely common experience, and it leaves patients with medically-induced PTSD. We give up and stop seeking care. We spend hundreds to thousands of dollars in search of a golden goose – the doctor who listens. Our relationships get strained, we develop mental health issues, we lose money we don’t have, and get medicated for problems we don’t have. This must change. Physicians charge astronomical fees for their “expertise” yet dismiss our symptoms in the same breath we are labeled “doctor shoppers.” It’s not OK. I’ve started to fight back, and you can too. File complaints with the state licensing board, leave those reviews on social media, call your insurance companies and file complaints, and stop paying ridiculous fees for doctors who are more concerned about their designer suits than your care. Nothing changes until we fight back, even when we are so tired of fighting. This cookie-cutter medical-industrial complex is growing, and it must be stopped. I know I’ve had all I can take and am done. What about you?

How Doctors With a 'God Complex' Contribute to Medical Gaslighting

“Lose weight.” “You look fine to me.” “Your labs are normal.” “Are you making this up for attention?” If you have a chronic or complex illness for any length of time, you’ve probably heard these over and over. This is the reality of having to navigate the American Medical Industrial Complex. The main discussions around “fixing” this system revolve around runaway costs and access to insurance coverage. However, there is another massive contributor lurking behind physician doors: ego and the God complex. I’ve been in this system for over four decades trying to seek care for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s, and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. That’s the shortlist. As a child with active autoimmune arthritis symptoms seeking relief, my diagnosis was delayed because doctors didn’t want to believe someone so young could have “arthritis.” Over a year and a half went by with doctors pushing physical therapy, which caused permanent damage to my right wrist. My labs showed significant inflammation but were ignored. This is not uncommon, especially with autoimmune diseases. In 2016, I had a C1-3 fusion for atlantoaxial instability from my hEDS. Within weeks, I realized something was very wrong. I had experienced muscle weakness prior to the surgery from the near-fatal compression, but now I had extreme pain in my shoulders and jaw. The pain in my right shoulder resolved some, but I lost the ability to use it without searing pain. That took a year. My left shoulder seemed to have the same problem and despite being my “good” shoulder, it was getting worse by the day. I was dismissed by physical therapy and told they didn’t know how to help me. My surgeon dismissed it as lingering surgical pain – but something was wrong. Over the course of the next four years, my shoulders deteriorated until I was hunched over and experiencing a suicidal level of pain. I visited over 20 doctors, each dismissing my symptoms and many gaslighting that these were even real symptoms. I was on the doctor merry-go-round and couldn’t get off. Four years later, I found my spine was collapsing, there were three large masses in one of my shoulders and I had wasting syndrome from a physician prescribing something contradictory to my illnesses. Know what else I confirmed? That 2016 surgery also had dislocated my jaw, permanently realigning it. Both rotator cuffs were torn, and my right shoulder was fractured. All of this had been ignored and my symptoms were dismissed by physicians. Ego-driven medical professionals had caused more permanent damage to my body and mind than all my illnesses combined. I wondered if I was the only patient dealing with this, so I checked around on social media. Come to find out, this is an extremely common experience, and it leaves patients with medically-induced PTSD. We give up and stop seeking care. We spend hundreds to thousands of dollars in search of a golden goose – the doctor who listens. Our relationships get strained, we develop mental health issues, we lose money we don’t have, and get medicated for problems we don’t have. This must change. Physicians charge astronomical fees for their “expertise” yet dismiss our symptoms in the same breath we are labeled “doctor shoppers.” It’s not OK. I’ve started to fight back, and you can too. File complaints with the state licensing board, leave those reviews on social media, call your insurance companies and file complaints, and stop paying ridiculous fees for doctors who are more concerned about their designer suits than your care. Nothing changes until we fight back, even when we are so tired of fighting. This cookie-cutter medical-industrial complex is growing, and it must be stopped. I know I’ve had all I can take and am done. What about you?

Access to Cannabis Concentrates Saved My Life

In Colorado alone, over 85,000 registered patients rely on cannabis-based therapy — many of whom are pediatric patients. Our children especially rely on access to therapeutically concentrated cannabis. I personally use dabbing and therapeutic concentrates to combat nausea from pharmaceutical catalyzed wasting syndrome. In 2020, I went to a cancer clinic hematologist to rule out cancer. During that visit, the hematologist ignored my request to check for lymphoma and decided to focus on my slightly low ferratin. (This delayed my treatment for my rheumatoid arthritis for months.) I was prescribed liquid iron and within two weeks my entire digestive tract felt like it was on fire. All of a sudden, I couldn’t eat. Food didn’t smell good and felt like a fire every time I ate. I quickly lost 50 pounds, most of which was muscle. Access to cannabis concentrates saved my life and allowed me to eat what little I could while my gut slowly healed. Without these highly concentrated THC products, I’m sure I’d have come much closer to death than I ever wanted to be at 46. Yet this therapy is under attack again. Colorado doctors are reporting a spike in youth with mental health issues and are pinpointing therapeutically concentrated cannabis as the cause. Critics are citing medical looping, THC potency and lack of regulation as sources for the growing number of teens experiencing severe mental health issues. However, there is little data to suggest cannabis concentrates are responsible for the spikes which are being seen throughout the United States and Colorado’s cannabis industry is already heavily regulated to prevent youth access. Across the U.S., states are reporting rises in adolescent mental health issues.  South Carolina, a state with no high THC access reports this, “More than one in five children age 15 or younger seriously considered attempting suicide last year, according to a report, highlighting what experts say is a concerning trend of rising attempts by 10 to 15-year-olds.” These alarming trends are happening in every state. Experts say the biggest contributors could be isolation, poor family situations and lack of mental health services. Stigma often plays a role in a family’s decision to seek mental health care and many teens are worried about their parent’s reaction. Often, these children turn to risk taking behaviors including substanceabuse. The Kaiser Family Foundation has been analyzing mental health trends and concluded, “Mental health and substance use disorders remain a key policy issue at the state level, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent analysis found that by 2029, there may be 75,000 more deaths due to suicide and alcohol or drug misuse as result of the pandemic and economic recession. The need for mental health care is continuing to increase even as many people have lost health insurance as a result of increased unemployment during the pandemic. This will likely exacerbate longstanding access to care issues for mental health and substance use treatment services. As policymakers address the many issues that the pandemic and economic crisis have created or highlighted, data will be pivotal to underpin policy action directed at addressing longstanding and developing issues in mental health care.” Nowhere is access to cannabis concentrates cited as a cause, however the lack of mental health services is showing to be a real public health crisis. Looping is a term used in the cannabis industry to define when a person visits multiple dispensaries and purchases maximum amounts of cannabis. Several articles have hinted that patients registered with Colorado’s medical cannabis program are looping and providing access to our high school students. This is blatantly false, as medical use is tracked and monitored for potential abuse. It has been for years. Each time a patient makes a purchase using their medical cannabis card, the information is tracked from seed-to-sale and put into a database kept by the Marijuana Enforcement Division.  Adult-use markets aren’t tracked, but there is no access for anyone under 21 leaving illegal access still being – illegal. Compliance is strictly watched and tested by the Marijuana Enforcement Division and has a 97 percent compliance rate – a far cry from crisis levels touted by those seeking to cap THC potency. We are in a public health crisis, but not one caused by the availability of cannabis concentrates as the data clearly shows. A more impactful solution would be a focus on improving access to youth mental health services, family counseling and better education programs. Placing an arbitrary potency cap on concentrates does nothing to stem the tide of mental health issues plaguing our adolescents. In fact, it would do nothing except force adulterated concentrates into the market. As we learned in 2019, adulterated concentrates are dangerous and a public health hazard. It is time to learn and grow from our past mistakes. Let’s focus on the real reasons our youth are experiencing severe mental health issues and not promote symbolic solutions to a very serious and growing issue.

How Doctors With a 'God Complex' Contribute to Medical Gaslighting

“Lose weight.” “You look fine to me.” “Your labs are normal.” “Are you making this up for attention?” If you have a chronic or complex illness for any length of time, you’ve probably heard these over and over. This is the reality of having to navigate the American Medical Industrial Complex. The main discussions around “fixing” this system revolve around runaway costs and access to insurance coverage. However, there is another massive contributor lurking behind physician doors: ego and the God complex. I’ve been in this system for over four decades trying to seek care for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s, and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. That’s the shortlist. As a child with active autoimmune arthritis symptoms seeking relief, my diagnosis was delayed because doctors didn’t want to believe someone so young could have “arthritis.” Over a year and a half went by with doctors pushing physical therapy, which caused permanent damage to my right wrist. My labs showed significant inflammation but were ignored. This is not uncommon, especially with autoimmune diseases. In 2016, I had a C1-3 fusion for atlantoaxial instability from my hEDS. Within weeks, I realized something was very wrong. I had experienced muscle weakness prior to the surgery from the near-fatal compression, but now I had extreme pain in my shoulders and jaw. The pain in my right shoulder resolved some, but I lost the ability to use it without searing pain. That took a year. My left shoulder seemed to have the same problem and despite being my “good” shoulder, it was getting worse by the day. I was dismissed by physical therapy and told they didn’t know how to help me. My surgeon dismissed it as lingering surgical pain – but something was wrong. Over the course of the next four years, my shoulders deteriorated until I was hunched over and experiencing a suicidal level of pain. I visited over 20 doctors, each dismissing my symptoms and many gaslighting that these were even real symptoms. I was on the doctor merry-go-round and couldn’t get off. Four years later, I found my spine was collapsing, there were three large masses in one of my shoulders and I had wasting syndrome from a physician prescribing something contradictory to my illnesses. Know what else I confirmed? That 2016 surgery also had dislocated my jaw, permanently realigning it. Both rotator cuffs were torn, and my right shoulder was fractured. All of this had been ignored and my symptoms were dismissed by physicians. Ego-driven medical professionals had caused more permanent damage to my body and mind than all my illnesses combined. I wondered if I was the only patient dealing with this, so I checked around on social media. Come to find out, this is an extremely common experience, and it leaves patients with medically-induced PTSD. We give up and stop seeking care. We spend hundreds to thousands of dollars in search of a golden goose – the doctor who listens. Our relationships get strained, we develop mental health issues, we lose money we don’t have, and get medicated for problems we don’t have. This must change. Physicians charge astronomical fees for their “expertise” yet dismiss our symptoms in the same breath we are labeled “doctor shoppers.” It’s not OK. I’ve started to fight back, and you can too. File complaints with the state licensing board, leave those reviews on social media, call your insurance companies and file complaints, and stop paying ridiculous fees for doctors who are more concerned about their designer suits than your care. Nothing changes until we fight back, even when we are so tired of fighting. This cookie-cutter medical-industrial complex is growing, and it must be stopped. I know I’ve had all I can take and am done. What about you?

Is It Legal to Give CBD to Children?

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been in the news, is on every gas station shelf, and infused into everything including jogging suits. So if CBD is “legal” does that mean I can give it to my minor with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome? What about my granddaughter with autism? Just what are the legalities surrounding CBD and minors? The recent 2018 Farm Bill has created a lot of confusion regarding cannabidiol (CBD). Many are under the impression that this bill legalized CBD, however states need to specifically opt in. Not every state in the United States has done so. In addition, while the Farm Bill did deschedule hemp, it placed cannabinoids under the FD&C regulatory framework. This makes the legality of your local CBD tincture extremely convoluted. Nowhere is this more prevalent than when parents assume CBD is legal to administer to minors. This belief is reinforced by the CBD industry, perhaps because it helps their bottom lines. Trusting parents administer CBD to their child without knowing some of the real risks involved. All it takes is one “concerned person” and you can find yourself on the receiving end of a Child Protective Services call. As one mother writes, “People are very judgmental. [The case] was dismissed, but it turned my life upside-down.” How is this happening, even in states that have legalized hemp CBD extracts? Technically, there is no such thing as THC-free cannabidiol isolate. Some of the main reasons cited for CPS cases are “drugging the child” or “child endangerment.” All cannabidiol products have trace tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in them, even isolates. Lab reports usually don’t measure far enough to report the trace THC, but it is always there. For example, a company using CBD isolates sent their samples to NASCAR because they wanted to sponsor a car. Their independent lab came back with a 0.000% THC result. When NASCAR’s lab tested it, the results came back 0.00006+. When it comes to minors, you can always be accused of giving your child THC, regardless of what the product says. No state allows parents to give their children THC outside any state-regulated cannabis programs. By default, you are giving your child an illegal substance, and you can be subject to investigation. This also brings us to the Federal Schedule I status of cannabis. Cannabis is still not legal anywhere in the United States under federal law. Many states are experimenting with autonomy and challenging the federal ban, but the protection is not guaranteed, and CPS is often called on parents following state rules. A parent of a child with a disability vented, “Many people still do not agree with or understand the medicinal use of cannabis. People judge us, they talk about us… they have even called Child Protective Services on us despite having obtained this medication legally.” Several states have chosen to decriminalize small amounts for adult use, and/or allow for medical necessity defenses. Some of these states have voted to protect parents who choose to give their children hemp cannabidiol, but these are highly restricted and monitored programs. Parents must comply with state law at all times, else risk losing any potential protection in the event CPS is called. The looming threat of federal intervention often outweighs the state protections for onlookers and can frequently cause someone to report the case. Professions like providers, physicians, and school personnel are subject to mandatory reporting laws. It is up to the specific individual whether they believe your case falls within the mandatory regulations. Each of these groups is subject to some federal oversight and has to abide by federal law to keep funding or licensure. Until this changes, the risk for CPS involvement will remain high for parents. For parents and their families, it is important to educate yourself to protect yourself. If you are considering CBD use in a minor, make sure you abide by state laws and have researched using direct sources. Look at state and local municipality information, and avoid getting information from blogs, social media groups and salespeople. The information is often conflicting and may not apply to you. Protect your family first and make informed decisions.

Community Voices

CBD Crash Course: The Basics

Cannabidiol (CBD) is popping up all over, from every corner store to mattresses to infused burgers.  Sales Reps are everywhere, seemingly hinting that their CBD product has the power to grant immortality and perfect health.   As patients, we need to be able to cut through the hype and figure out what this means for us.  It’s great that my healthy friend felt fabulous after her workout by taking a couple drops of CBD, but she doesn’t have health issues.  I have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and I’m pretty darn skeptical.  www.aiarthritis.org/podcast-ep16 I’ve been told that everything from tart cherry juice to tantric yoga will cure my incurable illnesses.  So, what is the skinny on CBD?

The Endocannabinoid System

CBD is a molecule found in the cannabis plant that interacts with our endocannabinoid system.  Preclinical evidence is showing that the eCS has a strong role in the regulation of our immune function including www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0171298509001880.  If you have any form of autoimmune arthritis, then you’ve heard about t-cells since most of the biologics available impact them.  This is what a 2009 study had to say about the role of the endocannabinoid in t-cell moderation, “T cells: Cannabinoids can influence T cell immunity in various manners: they can affect T cell number and proliferation, but may also have important effects on T helper 1- and 2-specific cytokines and TGF-b secretion.”  This study wasn’t specific to CBD, as nearly all the cannabinoids have shown some www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165572805001608.  There are dozens more just like this one showing that the use of cannabinoids may be an important tool in our toolbox when it comes to therapeutic options.  For more information, check out Canna-Patient Resource Connection’s Patient Place section on keepitlegalcolorado.org/autoimmune-diseases-and-the-endocann....

What Does it all Mean?

A new industry means new words.  It also means that there is no accepted standard of what each term defines, so to be sure you understand what the label is saying – always ask the manufacturer how they define each term.   For this section, we are sticking to terminology specific to hemp CBD and CBD products.

Isolate – usually refers to a product that has 99.9% or greater CBD and nothing else in the product.  Isolates don’t have other cannabinoids or terpenes, but they can be combined with other things like essential oils.  Even an isolate can contain trace tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that doesn’t show up on labs, so be mindful.  Even CBD isolate requires a minor (under 18) patient to be registered on the state registry.

Broad spectrum – more and more people are using the term “broad-spectrum” to describe a product that is a full hemp extract, but specifically has as much THC taken out as possible.  This means there could be other naturally occurring cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG) and the product should have a full profile of terpenes.

Full spectrum – When a hemp CBD product claims to be a “full-spectrum” product, this means that the product contains all the cannabinoids (including the allowed THC amount of up to 0.3%) and all the terpenes/flavonoids also extracted from the hemp plant.

What is more effective?

In the cannabis/hemp product world, the term “The Entourage Effect” tends to get thrown around.  What does this mean exactly?  Basically, this theory says that CBD works better when it has all its friends around.  It also means that effects can vary depending on what friends CBD is choosing to hang out with.  You know how Mom is always claiming who you hang out with matters? When you are hanging out with your friends in the club, you may act very differently than if you were hanging at your Mom’s quilting bee with her friends. Same thing here. Hands down, the preclinical data suggests that using The Entourage Effect has the most efficacy in any disease category.  From this study on www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0014299900006531 to this one static1.squarespace.com/static/5c0dacb3b40b9deb759b2dbe/t/5c..., all the current research points to patients getting the best results when they have access to everything the cannabis plant has to offer.  Even when using a CBD dominant regimen, the outcomes tend to be better when the product has a little of everything.  If you can’t have THC, then a broad-spectrum product would be the next best option, as isolates often require higher doses and are less effective.

How should I decide which to use?

When choosing between isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum, there are 3 questions you need to honestly answer.  First, do you have legal access?  Second, do I need to pass a drug test?  Lastly, are the benefits worth the risks?  For trying to match product type (inhaled, ingested, topical, etc.), check out this article about how to apply the How to Choose the Right Medical Cannabis Ingestion Method fo....

Do you have legal access?  The 2018 Farm Bill did legalize hemp, but it placed CBD under the FD&C Act and FDA regulation. The Farm Bill also requires states to opt in by submitting state plans for hemp production and allows states to keep CBD illegalwww.buscherlaw.com/state-hemp-legality.  If you have legal access, then choose your most robust option if you have no concerns about drug testing.  If your area has gray area or ambiguous laws, it may be more prudent to purchase options with as little THC as possible (though those are even illegal in many areas).

Do I need to pass a drug test?  Ultimately, all CBD products carry a risk of trace THC and failed drug tests.  ALL OF THEM.  Yes, I know we will get comments about how X product is THC-free because of some amazing technology they have but understand that their testing labs only measure to 2 or 3 decimal points for a reason.  That doesn’t make a product THC free, it just means that the lab wasn’t measuring far enough for it.  If your job, medical care, housing, or any other important aspect of your life requires you to pass a drug test, then CBD products may not be the best option.

Is the benefit worth the risk?  There are a lot of people who get caught up in unsuspecting scenarios.  You can find that www.projectcbd.org/how-to/cbd-drug-interactions with meds that are working and you don’t want to change that, or your pain management doctor won’t see you if you use CBD, legal or not.  Some areas still arrest for CBD and CBD isolate, and you may find that risk isn’t worth the potential benefit.  On the other hand, you could be at the end of the medication list and desperately need something to function.  Make sure you always weigh in any risks and bounce them off the potential benefits before deciding if a CBD product is right for you.

Questions to Ask the Manufacturer

Finding a product can be extremely overwhelming.  Every salesperson claims their products are the best, and it is hard to know what we should be looking for in a product.  Here are some tips for finding a reputable product.  You can always be polite and listen to the sales pitch, but before you purchase anything – be sure you contact the manufacturer directly.  Always ask these questions, and any other questions you find you have.  Don’t purchase a product until they have satisfied your requests for information.  Then take their answers and verify they are true.  Companies tend to use phrases and symbols that are misleading.  If you find a company lies to you, don’t give them your business even if the product passes inspection.

1. Does the company test every batch and supply those results to the consumer?  Ask for test results from every manufacturer that include potency of all cannabinoids (CBD, CBDa, THC, THCa, CBG, CBGa, CBN) and terpenes.  Also look for heavy metals testing, toxin testing, solvent residue, and other contaminants like mold and fungus.

2. Where is the hemp or CBD coming from?  Try for a manufacturer that uses clean farming practices as locally as possible.  Look for organically grown hemp.

3. What part of the plant was processed?   CBD is not found in hemp seeds, and very little is on the stalks.  The stalks of hemp can also suck in toxins present in the land, even on organically grown land.  Avoid products sourced from seed and stalks if possible.  Look for products made with leaves and flowers, since most cannabinoids are found in resin glands there.

4. How was the hemp CBD extracted?  Just say no to harsh solvents like hexane and butane. The liver doesn’t like those so much and solvents can interact with medications like methotrexate.

5. Make sure you can easily tell how many milligrams you are taking.  Look for products that have labeled droppers and give a specific milligram amount per milliliter.   “A couple drops” or “a dropper full” is not a metered dose, and it is hard to translate that from product to product.  You also need to know what dose is helping and if a dose is potentially too much.

6. Don’t pay more than $0.12USD (12 cents) per milligram of CBD.  There are hundreds of CBD companies out there.  Many now have batch test results and are more affordable.  Don’t overpay because you feel that will buy a better product.  That isn’t always true.

This new world of “CBD Everything” is overwhelming and difficult to navigate in.  Unfortunately, it is our responsibility to drive the markets towards a more ethical and quality service.  These companies feel it is the consumer’s responsibility to keep up with the details like legalities and interactions, yet rarely provide easy-to-find and accurate information on the topic. Being an educated consumer can help you avoid scams and products that are potentially dangerous.  Hopefully this information is a first step in that education process.  This information is not medical or legal advice and serves educational purposes only.  If you have medical or legal questions, be sure to consult with your medical and legal teams.

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Community Voices

CBD Crash Course: The Hype Lines

Navigating the Cannabidiol

(CBD) product landscape as a patient can be overwhelming.  Fancy websites with glittery products hint

that by adding CBD to your health care regimen that YOU TOO could live the life of your dreams.  All your pains will just go away and vitality

is yours for the taking.  CBD is being marketed in everything from

hamburgers to pillows, and active wear to coffee.  Everywhere, people are talking about the

wonders of CBD.  When we listen carefully,

we hear consumers talking about www.foxnews.com/health/just-how-safe-are-cbd-products-experts-weigh-in and products that www.kmov.com/news/cbd-consumers-concerned-about-products-wit....  Patients

are also talking about www.projectcbd.org/medicine/cbd-drug-interactions/p450 they didn’t get warnings for and being misled

about potential negative consequences, like being dismissed from pain

management over a failed drug test.  Patients

don’t have the luxury to think about supplements like CBD as nutrition.  We have underlying issues and conditions that

these supplements can legitimately affect, especially when it comes to immune

system function.  It is important that we

treat cannabidiol just like any other therapy and ask the same questions we would

for pharmaceuticals.

Cannabidiol

has been an amazing tool and according to a blog.arthritis.org/news/patients-tell-us-cbd-use
, many with arthritis and autoimmune arthritis diseases

are trying it out.  A statement by www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/Cannabidi...
found that CBD had no potential for abuse, a good

safety profile, and most adverse effects were from pharmaceutical interactions

and underlying conditions.

Unfortunately, those of us with Chronic illness and fighting terminal

illnesses fall into those last categories.

We are almost always on pharmaceuticals and have underlying conditions

or symptoms we need to accommodate.  It

is up to us, the patient and consumer, to question claims being made, ask for

science, and check for interactions.  Always

double check the information being given with a trusted member of your medical

and/or legal team.

CBD works

because it interacts with receptor systems in our body’s cells.  While this is important for a healthy person

to know, it becomes essential when someone is considering CBD to help with

chronic/terminal illnesses.  A lot of

these interactions are desired, but people with chronic illnesses need to know

what to expect upfront.  Knowing there is

a risk to mitigate, whether legal or medical, can make sure the patient has the

best chance for success.  Here are some

common misleading marketing buzzwords that contribute to hype and general

misunderstanding.  Marketing is designed

to make you feel safe about a product.

All products have hype, and the CBD industry is no different.  Their products have some serious hype, and it

is our job to dig through it.

Here are the top 6 patient

picks as the “most confusing hype-lines”.

1.

CBD,

even from hemp and isolates, are not “legal in all 50”.  Internationally, the same ambiguous situation

exists.  Always check your local,

state/province, and federal/country laws before choosing a product.  You

may find there are THC limits, local areas may have banned hemp CBD, or some

other complication exists.  Most

CBD sales sites claim hemp CBD products are www.buscherlaw.com/state-hemp-legality, and will cite either the 2014 Farm Bill or the

2018 Farm Bill.  The 2018 Farm Bill did

deschedule cannabinoids found in hemp, but it placed them under the FD&C

Act, giving the FDA full regulatory authority.

The FDA classifies all cannabinoids as “www.fda.gov/media/112426/download
”, which makes them not so legal when introduced into

commerce.  Just as before the Farm Bills,

hemp and hemp CBD is subject to state legality.

This has created a very ambiguous legal framework that no patient could

really understand to comply with.  Add

this governmental nonsense to the constant hums of CBD marketers trying to

practice law and it becomes next to impossible to follow along.  Websites and hemp traders will sing about the

federal deschedule but forget to mention that many areas still consider hemp

CBD and CBD isolate to be illegal.  For

example, check out this statement from atg.sd.gov/OurOffice/Media/pressreleasesdetail.aspx,

“Current South Dakota law makes industrial hemp illegal and all

forms of CBD oil illegal.  The only exception is the prescription drug

Epidiolex which was recognized by this year’s legislature as a controlled

substance under SB 22.  Governor Kristi Noem signed that bill into

law on February 19, 2019, with an emergency clause, therefore having the law go

into effect immediately.

This action leaves any other use or possession

of CBD oil as a violation of state law.”

Always check with the local

authorities to see if CBD is legal in your area.  Legalities are complex and “legal” doesn’t

always mean “legal”.

2.      You will often hear phrases like “FDA

Compliant” or “FDA Approved”.  The only

FDA approved CBD product is Epidiolex.  If the product is marketed www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/it-really-fda-approved, walk away.

Epidiolex is a prescription CBD tincture that is rarely prescribed for

Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and is the only FDA Approved CBD

product.  Also know that hemp CBD

manufacturers are still www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-c... to come out with their regulations, and as

of this publication, they have not yet done so. (March 2020) “FDA Compliant”

can mean many things.  Their farm may be

FDA compliant in some way, not necessarily relating to hemp.  The packaging could be FDA compliant.  This phrase does not imply the product is

approved by the FDA, or that the product is more trustworthy.  Right now, any implied FDA stamp of approval

should raise eyebrows.  Make sure the

company is clear about what they are being “compliant” about and whether it is

relevant to hemp.

3.      In the United States, CBD (even isolate

use) is illegal in minors unless you participate in the state medical cannabis

program.  Make sure you consult with a lawyer that specializes in

CPS cases before you make any decisions.

It seems so

contradictory that www.youtube.com/watch

use when you can purchase it in every corner store.  Unfortunately, every state has a loophole

that allows them to investigate, and only a few states have taken steps to

protect families from CPS interference.  If your state has a medical cannabis program, protect your

child and your family.  We observed that

investigations involving parents who are actively on the state registry tend to

get their cases dropped.  Unfortunately,

a lot of doctors and CBD companies are telling parents that they don’t need

medical cards to give their children hemp CBD or CBD isolate.  Those parents are finding out the hard way.  If a salesperson is forceful and insisting

that you don’t need a medical card, this is a red flag.  For more information and

sources, check out this article Is It Legal to Give CBD to Children?

4.      Watch carefully if you start hearing

phrases like, “You have an endocannabinoid system, so you need CBD.”  Yes, you have an endocannabinoid system, and

yes, it could plausibly be deficient.

However, the www.projectcbd.org/science/cannabis-and-immune-system, and not something you just want to throw

stuff at.  Right now, everything is

theory and pre-clinical and only the most popular theory (endocannabinoid

deficiency) is getting press time.  There

could be other issues like over stimulation, receptor issues, and more at

play.  Not every issue is going to be an

endocannabinoid deficiency, or specifically related to what CBD has to

offer.  Research is finding new

endocannabinoids, new receptors, and new functions all the time.  Chronic illness is hard on our body, and we

don’t have the extra leeway if we make a mistake.  Be on the lookout for those implying that CBD

is something your body needs. This is a commonly used phrase with no real

meaning.  Your body also has an opiate

receptor system.  That doesn’t mean you need

opiates or insinuate opiates are “good for you”.

5.      Be wary when someone implies CBD is safe

because it is from a plant.  Always

check with a pharmacist to see if there are any important interactions you need

to be watching for. Make sure

you critically think about any blanket statements being made.  As children growing up in the hills, we were

always told not to eat random berries in the woods because they could kill people.  There were mushrooms we couldn’t eat, and

plants we had to take great care not to touch.

Trying to make someone believe an active chemical compound is safe

simply because it’s a plant is nothing more than a comfort zone marketing

ploy.  The truth lies more in the

middle.  Cannabis does have interactions

within the body.  If it didn’t interact

with the body, patients wouldn’t be fighting so hard for access.  Cannabis works on multiple receptor systems, www.projectcbd.org/how-to/cbd-drug-interactions, and can even cause some adverse

reactions.  That is okay.  Often these interactions in the body are how

we get relief, start healing, and can then talk to our doctors about lessening

the pharmaceuticals.  I’d rather someone

be honest than to find out when liver ALTS measure 588.   We watch for interactions and side effects

with every other active therapy, whether supplements or pharmaceutical.  CBD and cannabis are no different.

6.      Is CBD from hemp or CBD from “marijuana”

better?  Guess what marijuana with a THC content at 0.3% or lower is?  Hemp.  Cannabidiol

the molecule is the same whether it comes from something someone calls “hemp”

or something called “marijuana”.  The

only difference is going to be THC levels.

Most CBD extracts come from low-THC cannabis, or hemp.  Whether an extract is effective depends on

how your body reacts to it, and what other things are in the extract keepitlegalcolorado.org/targeting-therapy not whether it was sourced from hemp or

“marijuana”.  If your body responds

better to higher THC levels, then CBD from “marijuana” (or CBD with higher

levels of THC) would be better.  If you

respond to low-THC CBD extracts, then hemp could be the way to go.  The plants are all cannabis.  Patients really should know what cannabinoids

and terpenes are in their products anyway.

 

 

Fighting the 'Stoner Stigma' as a Medical Cannabis Patient

Years ago, I started using cannabis to help regulate my pain. The patient-demonizing “War on Opiates” was just getting started, and filling my valid prescription was becoming harder and harder. Fast forward a few months, and I had completely weaned off 60 mg oxymorphone and 30 mg oxycodone daily. After about three months of using cannabis consistently, I randomly noticed I was healing faster and able to do more. My inflammation markers were nonexistent, and after 18 months of unresponsiveness to a prescription biologic rheumatoid arthritis medication, it magically started working better. At the time, I had no idea that autoimmune and inflammatory diseases were some of the bigger responders to cannabinoid therapy. Upon further research I found studies like this one from GW Pharmaceuticals which claim, “In the first ever controlled trial of a CBM in RA, a significant analgesic effect was observed, and disease activity was significantly suppressed following Sativex treatment.” Sativex is a 1:1 THC:CBD pharmaceutical tincture. At that point the light bulb came on and I realized the combination of cannabis and my biologic were most likely working in harmony. This was amazing and the best I’d felt in decades. I was so excited and went to talk to my rheumatologist. His response was that he “didn’t believe that mumbo jumbo,” but he was happy I was off opiates. OK. Then I made it public that I was using cannabis. Suddenly, everyone I knew started sending me memes with Cheech and Chong or Scooby-Doo stoner innuendos. Sure, they were funny, but I realized the stigma of cannabis prevented people from taking it seriously as a therapy. Cannabis has been around for thousands of years, and was in everyone’s medicine cabinet until the late 1930s. After that, we’ve had nothing but harm studies and DARE curriculum taught from an early age. Only recently has most of the world started to take cannabis seriously as a therapeutic agent. Here are some things to expect if you consider trying cannabis in a medical context. 1. Most of the public thinks medical cannabis patients are stoners. If you are public with use, expect people to assume you are using cannabis recreationally. Most patients use cannabis to either improve quality of life or increase functioning. THC has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and helps modulate tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a). But not everyone will understand, and many will assume you are just medicating the pain away by getting “high.” They will talk about brownies, munchies and watching movies with couchlock. Unfortunately, this is just the natural process of change, and you will inadvertently become an educator. Laws may have changed, but perception takes so much longer to change. 2. Most doctors don’t want the liability of dealing with cannabis, and most aren’t familiar with the endocannabinoid system. Don’t expect them to know how any of this works. The endocannabinoid system (eCS) is a major body system. Pre-clinical research shows the system works on a cellular level and helps maintain energy homeostasis, modulates the immune system and healing, and governs several functions in our bodies. Most doctors know absolutely nothing about how it works. Research has exploded in the last decade, but this is a small blip in the time it will take to get to a point where we are regularly conducting human trials. In addition, physicians have DEA prescribing licenses and those are federal licenses. There is always a risk that dabbling in cannabis could result in loss of the license. In this moment in time, we are on our own when it comes to finding our own therapy balance. 3. Pain management often discriminates and will not allow cotherapy. Even in legal states like Washington, Colorado, Maine and New Mexico, many pain management clinics do not allow for the use of opiates and cannabis together. This robs the patient of using cannabis to help them wean off opioids slowly and makes them choose. Study after study has shown that cannabis can assist with lowering doses of opiates needed or even replacing them altogether. Make sure you talk with your pain management provider about their policy before using cannabis, even CBD isolate. You could lose access if your provider is not on board. 4. Most hospitals don’t allow cannabis onsite. In 2016, I had a c1-3 fusion and wanted to use cannabis for pain control rather than opiates. Not only was that request denied, but my bags were searched and all my cannabis was put into a locker. Even when I was being discharged and asked for my locker contents, the security guard questioned me like I was a criminal. I live in Colorado and both medical and recreational access is allowed. This hospital not only treated me like I was a murderer, but seriously pushed IV narcotics when I didn’t need them. The nurse even made a quip about “using it while I had it.” If I needed the opioid, I would have used it. I didn’t and it gave me side effects I didn’t need on top of a fusion. Talk about being high! After trying it once, I made them take the pump from the room. Realizing that just because our laws had changed didn’t mean perspectives had changed was a huge adjustment. Colorado has had their medical program for nearly 20 years, yet the stigma of “the stoner just wanting to get high” still dominates. I was incredibly naïve when I first started my cannabis journey and have learned so much since then. Being persistent and willing to learn on my own has helped change the perceptions of nearly everyone I meet. From neighbors to lawmakers and doctors to patients, perceptions and stigma are changing. That doctor who didn’t believe in cannabis “mumbo jumbo” became a believer and three years later sold a CBD topical recipe to a large manufacturer. You never know how important your story will be when it comes to changing perceptions. Cannabis is like any other therapy and doesn’t work for everyone. With the stigma still pervasive, many patients won’t even try. Slowly but surely, things are changing for the better. Patients are starting to come out of the woodwork in droves, and the professional medical community is taking notice. Conferences like Marijuana for Medical Professionals are filling up with curious doctors and practitioners. Interest in researching cannabis and disease is exploding, and finally stigmas are starting to change. Despite all of the challenges, cannabis has still been worth it. Access has bought me some time being functional, and for that, I’m forever grateful.