Cannabis: Self-Medicating and Wellness


Sharon Letts

By Sharon Letts
A good friend is convinced cannabis leads to heroin use. It happened to a friend of his, so he knows. This was a few years ago. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d been using the herb off and on since I was 16 years old, and felt nary a pang to upgrade to any other substance. 
I grew up in the 1960s, and went through high school in the 70s, so drugs were no stranger. Having an alcoholic father, my childhood was one big cocktail party. Thankfully, alcohol wasn’t a draw for me, nor was tobacco at 13, or cocaine at 19. 
I had an undiagnosed processing problem. I appeared to be a good student, but could barely pull a C in most classes. After trying cannabis at 16, I did better in school – my concentration improved. I read like an alphabet-hungry animal; I wrote Haiku and poetry and was published at 19. And, as a bonus, I no longer needed to take liver damaging Midol for menstrual cramps.

My partner and I believe he is an undiagnosed autistic, or under the spectrum of the affliction. The first time he tried cannabis he was 13 years old and said it suddenly fixed everything. He said he immediately felt calmer, but more importantly, he felt better.

Cannabis Cheri

Recently I reviewed The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook by cannabis activist Cheri Sicard. Her forward was written by Lanny Swerdlow, a registered nurse who stated many patients had used cannabis years prior, stopping for long periods of time, then returning to it later as medicine.
Of all the reasons for stopping, not one was for negative reasons against the herb. All of them stopped due to the stigma that came with it when a job or kids came into play, or they “just didn’t think I should use any more.”
That was my modus operandi. I even lied to my daughter about my cannabis use, thinking it would give her permission to use drugs – a common belief by moms at the time.
When California State Proposition 215 was on the ballot in 1996, I voted for it, and was happy it passed, but I didn’t rush out to get a card. Throughout my daughter’s life I would partake if it was offered, but only covertly, and I never kept any at home.
It wasn’t until 2007, when my daughter was 16, that the herb came back into my life. She had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 13 and was suffering terribly when a friend acquired a small amount on the black market for her to try.
I rolled a cigarette and we sat outside in the garden, each taking a few puffs. She was a straight A student, and prior to her illness she was an all-star athlete. She wasn’t interested in drugs at all. No matter, she did not like the euphoric feeling and that afternoon we spent a full three hours thrift shopping until the effects wore off. That evening I made her a tea and she slept well, but again, she did not feel comfortable with the feeling from the psychoactive properties, or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
If I had known about raw ingesting for pain without the psychoactive properties, I’d have chopped up some fresh leaves and put them in a salad for my daughter, or would have had her munch them raw, since she grew up eating from the garden — but that was eight years ago. There is barely any information on the Web today about raw ingesting or juicing with cannabis – a now popular method used by senior citizens, bypassing THC activation, with no euphoric feelings, just good medicine.

The Ganja Blog

As for myself, that little bag of goodness helped me to get back into art, and I created a studio in the garage. After smoking I’d go outside and walk my neighborhood with my camera. Soon I shed 50 pounds and had created an art project of “Alley Photos.” The little pieces of junk I found on the ground led to a new hobby of Assemblage. 
I’m sorry I couldn’t help my daughter at the time, but grateful the herb came back into my life. My mother is no doubt smiling down from heaven, her words falling lightly around me, “Everything happens for a reason.”
The 50 pounds I shed came from an earlier diagnosis of hypo-thyroid disease, and the herb got me off my tush, outside, and back into creative projects. I stopped watching television, pitched a tent in the garden in July, and slept outside until the rains came in October. 
Within a year we had relocated to Humboldt County. Not for the herb, but college for my daughter. After writing for television in Los Angeles, I transitioned to writing for dailies easily, but AP Style wasn’t the only thing I learned.
Humboldt County is synonymous with cannabis, and I slowly realized that most of my coworkers above and below the administrative line had a “grow” — a subsidy because they could.

Redwood Curtain Copwatch

“Behind the Redwood Curtain,” soon became “Behind the Curtain” for me, as I realized in some neighborhoods every third house hosts a grow in a back bedroom, and for good reason. 
Humboldt is a depressed, rural area. The lumber industry is a distant memory, and fishing is a shadow of what it once was. As with the rest of the country, retail rules, and minimum wage is often the only option. So, you do what you have to do. Many grow, many more trim, many, many more work in numerous ancillary fields surrounding the production of the herb.
I did not plan on becoming a cannabis activist. A simple story about a new school in Garberville (707 Cannabis College) led to a request from canna-attorney Kyndra Miller to write of a physician on her way to prison.
Just when you think you have it all figured out, everything changes.
Dr. Mollie Fry, otherwise known as, “Doc Fry,” is a double mastectomy survivor, a mom, and a devout Catholic. If anyone could enlighten me to “God’s Medicine,” it’s Mollie. She connected the dots for me on medicine vs. recreational use. Because, you see, it’s all the same. 
A recovered alcoholic friend once told me, “Alcohol worked for me.” And, aside from the destructive nature of alcohol, I can understand that, as cannabis works for me.
At 53 with thyroid disease leading into menopause, I’ve been challenged physiologically and emotionally for a few years now. And while Big Pharma hasn’t lost me completely, I do rely on cannabis as a complimentary medication for myriad symptoms from both afflictions, including digestive issues, depression, appetite stimulation, and insomnia.
I’m allergic to most prescription pain meds; cannabis was the only medication I used after gallbladder surgery, and an intense elbow surgery where the tendon was scraped from the bone. Good times.
Yes, I got very “high,” if that’s the word you are used to.
For me, from this day forward, I’m calling the feeling, well – with no apologies.