by Kayla Johnson
In the months since State Question 788 has passed, people have finally started to talk about cannabis openly, and share how it’s changed their life to have legal access to life changing medicine. Thousands of Oklahomans have gone from being treated as criminals to finally being recognized as patients, and every one of them has a story to tell.
Angie White is one of those patients. A native of Maryland that moved to Oklahoma about nine years ago, she’s one of the 74,000 patients who have been set free by 788. “After we moved here, I started getting sick, and we could never really figure out what was causing it, or what was wrong.” Doctor after doctor couldn’t find out what was causing her symptoms, and for White, it was a painful waiting game. “It took seeing probably twenty doctors before one of them finally did a blood test and gave me a diagnosis of lyme disease.” Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria commonly carried by infected blacklegged ticks specifically, and the bacteria is transmitted to us through the tick bite. It has a wide range of symptoms ranging from flu-like aches and fatigue with rashes to tremors, seizures and severe joint pain if left untreated. “Doctors in Oklahoma just don’t know anything about lyme disease, and so I was doing a lot of research on lyme disease and started to read about how cannabis oils can help dramatically relieve some of those symptoms for people who suffer from it.”
Like many patients who are finally able to try cannabis for the first time for their illness or injury, White found quick relief in cannabis oils. “I went from seizing six or seven times a day, with the seizure medications just not working, and I haven’t had a seizure in over two years, since I was first able to try it. The other medicines were just making my body toxic, cannabis actually worked, and I went from three medications to none.” People who suffer from lyme disease also usually suffer from severe anxiety or even depression, but for White, cannabis is the key to relieving those effects as much as the physical ones. “Now, instead of taking something like Klonopin, I can take one of my oil pills, or grab my vape, and I can function again.”
788 was passed in June, in effect by August, and White had her card in November. “The feeling when I got my card was just pure relief. I wasn’t a criminal anymore, nothing would happen to my kids because of my choice of medicine, it was just a wonderful, freeing feeling.” Both White and her husband have their medical cards, and with legalization came the opportunity to not only be honest with their kids about their choice of medicine, but potentially help their children in the same way they’ve benefited. “Our two youngest, 13, and 15, will be getting their cards, and for my son who also has lyme disease, the pain relief from THC will be such a game changer for him to get through the school day. Knowing that my kids can receive legal access to safe medicine is a really good feeling.”
White says one of the biggest benefits of having her medical card is the ability to grow and make their own medicine. “The day I got my card, we germinated seeds to start growing,” she said,” I joined Facebook groups about growing, I looked online, and just gathered all the information I could and ran with it because there’s so much information being shared among Oklahomans right now, trying to help each other get started.” She and her husband converted their garage into a safe, secure grow room, and the benefits aren’t just in the end product.”Some days, the pain and anxiety are really bad, and it’s just hard to get out of bed in the mornings, but knowing that I can go check on my own plants when the lights come on, it makes it worth it, and it’s a really good feeling.”
Growing her own medicine not only gives her the benefit of taking it from seed to end product, but it also has obvious financial benefits. “Right now, with the market still working things out, it’s so expensive to buy what I need to get the relief I need, but being able to grow and make what I need myself, it makes it much more affordable, and I really think for a lot of patients, growing their own is a good route to take, at least until things level out in the dispensaries.” For White, her biggest hope for the market is not only that prices go down, but that quality goes up. “This is all new for Oklahoma, and if we really want to promote Oklahoma-based businesses and growers, it’s just going to take some time and learning to get things on the right track. We’ll get there, it will just take patience.”
There’s no denying that cannabis has a huge, huge medical impact on every patient who’s tried it. But something more has been given besides just relief. “Knowing that there’s hope, there’s really hope that in five years, I could be improved enough to be back in a saddle, or doing whatever I love without having to break the law to get there or leaving Oklahoma., that’s everything to me. Like a lot of other patients, we were considering leaving Oklahoma for a legal state once I was diagnosed with lyme disease, but now, we don’t have to uproot.” White and her husband are considering starting a commercial grow as well, and being able to provide for her family in a way that can also benefit other Oklahomans simply adds to that hope-filled feeling.
Knowing that the stigma she and other patients once faced is starting to fade is encouraging for White. “I’m not considered a ‘pothead’ anymore, or a drug addict, or a criminal, I’m a medical patient. I’m just Angie again.”