Medical Marijuana Debate: The patients who use it


BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) – Medical marijuana isn’t an option for Alabama residents at this time.  However, there’s a lot of confusion and debate about what is–and what should–be available to people suffering from everything from back pain to cancer.

Bri Bruce moved to Arizona recently where she now has access to medical marijuana.  She didn’t relocate from Alabama for treatment.  However, she says having that access has been life-changing.  “My story is simply: I had tried so many pills.  My doctor prescribed pills for what I would call privilege disorders,” Bruce explained.  “I, in no way, mean to downplay what I went through, because it can be very very intense and very harmful, but I felt kind of silly.  I had so many opportunities for education and travel and wonderful things–and had this great life.  I still was struggling everyday with things like depress and even ADHD.”

Bruce said she didn’t want to take pharmaceutical drugs anymore.  She had been on them since her teen years, and she didn’t like the side effects.  She, instead, got a recommendation from a doctor and got a medical marijuana card.  “It felt like wandering off into Narnia or CandyLand,” she remembered.  “When I first went into the dispensary, it was a terrifying experience.  That’s one of the reasons I got into the industry, myself.  I like helping walk people through.”

Over time, Bruce figured out what products worked for her specific wants and needs.  She had been dealing with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD.  She doesn’t call medical marijuana a ‘magic bullet’ that healed her, but it did change her life.

“I had become something of an agoraphobe,” Bruce explained.  “I’m not using that word lightly.  The way that medical marijuana changed my life–is by giving me one.”

However, Bruce is also pushing for more from the medical community.  “Our industry would like research,” she said.  “I’m not here to say marijuana is good or bad.  I’m saying that I tried many other medications, first, that had too many side effects.  That using products like CBD don’t get you high, and taking one of the cannabinoids out of context of the plant, THC, and giving it way too much press is not really going to provide the most medical benefit.”

Bruce mentioned CBD.  That’s basically what is available to Alabamians at this time.  It is derived from the cannabis plant, but it has very small amounts of the psychoactive ingredient THC.  Advocates like Daniel Steelman say, there’s a lot of confusion about CBD–like the fact that it is not intended to get you stoned. 

Steelman had been dealing with back and neck pain for years.  He said he was having trouble sleeping.

“After going to multiple doctors and chiropractors, I couldn’t find any help,” he said. 

It was in May 2018 when Steelman started consistently using CBD oil.  His story was similar to Bruce’s.  He was tired of trying prescription drugs.  He was experiencing too many side effects.  A friend let him try some CBD oil one night while Steelman was experiencing anxiety.  Steelman was impressed with the results.  

Last October, Steelman’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He convinced her to try CBD oil to help with some of her issues–like anxiety and inflammation.  He said they discussed it with her doctors, who were supportive of the idea.

“My mother is a very southern, Christian lady,” explained Steelman.  “She’s the closest thing to Joyce Meyers you’ll ever meet and it took lots of talking into, and then when the doctor said it was okay, then she finally let her guard down and tried it.”

Steelman said his mother’s results were also significant.  He has been so impressed with the therapeutic benefits that his family has seen from using various forms of CBD, that he decided to pursue it further. 

“I want to try to help as many people like her–because I’m sitting in that chemo room with all of these other patients and it was really depressing, and if you could see what it does to people…I think CBD can help out with a lot of those folks,” he said. 

Steelman is working on a business and charity.  It will start with the launch of a website,  He hopes to accomplish that in the springtime.  Then, Steelman has plans for retail.  He wants to call the physical location, Carolyn’s Care, in honor of his mother who is still battling cancer.  Eventually, Steelman says that he hopes to have a farm so that he and his partners can begin producing their own product by next year. 

However, Steelman and Bruce are careful to warn potential users that neither CBD or medical marijuana act as cure-alls or magic bullets.  Both said that they consulted with doctors before trying–or getting their family members to try–treatments.  Steelman uses the oil daily, and uses a CBD pain cream as needed.  His mother uses the oil three times a day.  He said it has a calming effect. 

Bruce said she wants to see more education about both CBD and medical marijuana–and for the stigma to go away.  “I would love to be able to have these products for my grandmother back home,” she said of life in Alabama.  “I would love to be able to educate people, so you know what’s going to get you high and what’s not.  Because being high–plenty of people experience relief in the late stages of cancer.  I absolutely don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I think shame is one of the worst parts.

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