MARQUETTE - Sue Smart has had cancer and currently has fibromyalgia, degenerative disc and joint disease, traumatic glaucoma and heart problems.
Since May 2009 Smart, 55, has been using medical marijuana to ease her daily aches and pains. She said it has made her life considerably easier.
"I used to be on a lot of different medications," she said. "I was able to get off those medications. I was taking about eight or nine pills a day of different things."
Marijuana plants that are being cultivated for use as medicine are seen in this file photo. (Journal file photos)
Aside from heart medication, Smart is now mostly pharmaceutical free. Not only is she a patient, she's a registered caregiver with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program, meaning she can grow marijuana for state registered patients.
She said there are a lot of misconceptions about marijuana.
"I want people to be aware that it's not just a bunch of stoners out there trying to find an excuse to get high. It's really not. It's a really beneficial plant. It's good for a lot of different ailments," she said. "It's not going to work for everybody but it works for a majority of people. A lot of people are afraid to smoke it because it brings up all the images of being a pot-head and being a hippy and the next thing you know you're going to be wearing granny glasses and beads. No, it's not like that at all."
"I used to be on a lot of different medications. I was able to get off those medications."
- Sue Smart, medical marijuana user
Smart said if someone use medical marijuana only once in a while, they will get the high associated with the drug. However if used on a daily basis at regular times, like any other medication, their body will get used to it and it won't give them a high.
Medical marijuana doesn't have to be smoked, she said. It can be made into a tea, it can be baked into food, and it can be made into an oil and taken in capsule form among other delivery methods.
Medical marijuana has been well-documented as reducing nausea and vomiting, increasing appetite for chemotherapy and AIDS patients. It's been shown as an effective treatment for glaucoma and used for pain relief.
Smart said unlike many pharmaceutical drugs, medical marijuana has few side-effects.
"The only side effect is you get the munchies and sometimes with certain strains you slow down. And that's not necessarily a bad thing in some conditions. Somebody that's dying of cancer, for them to be able to eat and relax, that's a good thing," she said.
She said caregivers who grow medical marijuana grow different strains to treat different types of ailments in patients. Some of the major strains include sativa, indica and hybrids of both.
"With medical marijuana it's not just something you get from the guy on the street corner. With medical marijuana, the people who grow it in the right way are very diligent. They make sure that what they're growing with is organic, safe for the environment, humans and animals," she said.
Marijuana, which is properly known as cannabis, has been used by humans for thousands of years but it began to be outlawed in different countries around the world in the early 20th century.
"Our Founding Fathers grew it. In 5,000 years of recorded history it's been used for everything from relieving the pain of childbirth to headaches, nausea and all kinds of things," Smart said.
In Nov. 2008 residents in Michigan passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. The law went into effect in April 2009, allowing patients to apply to the state department for registration.
Smart said she was very pleased the law passed.
"I think it's time that people see it for what it is. It's a wonderful plant. It's a gift. It helps people and some people it's just migraines or back aches and I don't mean to lessen the pain that they have but it goes anywhere from migraines and back aches all the way up to people who have been given six months to live," she said.
The law in Michigan only allows each patient or caregiver to possess 2.5 ounces total of dried usable medicine - including flowers and leaves -and a total of 12 plants. The state's medical marijuana act doesn't protect people from the federal government. Federal law enforcement agents can still seize plants and prosecute in court.
Smart encouraged people to research medical marijuana online to find out more information. She founded a group called Moms for the Legalization of Marijuana. It can be found online at www.cafemom.com/group/40741.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.