My Story: Why I Turned to Medical Marijuana

For my 63-years of life, I have endured negative reactions to medications.

I also live with two incurable conditions, sarcoidosis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

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When I was born, the pediatrician told my mother that I seemed to be allergic to my own body. Whenever I needed medication, even just aspirin or Tylenol, I seemed to have issues metabolizing the drugs. I lived through one negative reaction after another.

It was not until 2011, before having my 20th surgery to stabilize my leg with cadaver tendons, that a surgeon suggested DNA drug sensitivity testing. His hospital in Wisconsin was at a loss to help me cope with surgical pain and other issues I suffered due to reactions from medications.

Through a simple process of swabbing the inside of my cheek and sending it to the lab, I received a final report that confirmed what my pediatrician felt from the beginning: I barely metabolize any medication on the market.

But now I needed to know what I could use, since my body was destined to experience more and more pain from my serious medical conditions.

I was sent to a pain clinic for a doctor to review my records. He reported there was nothing to offer me for pain relief except trying medical marijuana. I laughed. My whole life I had been told to stay away from “drugs” such as marijuana. Like many, I had tried it once in college but had a bad reaction and spent the rest of the day in bed.

Marijuana did not seem like a good suggestion, and yet I was desperate for pain relief. I decided to try it one more time.

Due to the sarcoidosis in my chest, I would not be able to administer marijuana through conventional smoking.  Instead, I was instructed on how to extract THC (marijuana’s active ingredient) into an oil base.

The first night I measured one teaspoon of the oil and mixed it with applesauce. I took it an hour before going to bed, forewarning my husband to expect another bad reaction to a medication. To my amazement, I woke up to a new day. Not only had I slept the entire night, something I hadn’t done in months, I also woke feeling clear-headed.

I have been a medical marijuana user for over six years now. I know there is a misperception that constant use can cause cognitive issues, but my husband and I disagree. Since taking it for medicinal use, we have noticed that my vocabulary has improved along with my mental clarity.  I have better control of my pain levels, which is allowing me to advocate for pain-related issues.

Today, my husband and I are ambassadors for the U.S. Pain Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation in Rhode Island. It means a great deal to my husband and I to do what we can for those who suffer, to share our experiences in hopes of generating change for others.

The most important part of our day is speaking with patients referred by doctors, who need help managing, coping and living with pain. Being able to help others is the most rewarding part of my life, which would not be possible if I did not have pain relief myself — relief that has allowed me to function and make a difference in this world.

And that relief comes from taking medicinal marijuana oil.

Education about the use of this form of pain relief is vital in order to change attitudes in our society. People need to know that no one dies using this medication or suffers organ damage. Society must understand that those living with pain do not get stoned or high. We get pain relief.

Because of marijuana, I rarely need to take medication during the day. This is because the oil stays in the system, providing peace and calm. When I do have tougher days, I vaporize marijuana, use a tincture or a marijuana lollipop to administer some relief.

In the state of Rhode Island, support for the medical need for marijuana has been amazing. It took time to educate people on the benefits of the drug, but now I hardly hear negative comments about this form of medicine.

I feel we all deserve pain relief, and if this drug treats pain, we all should have the right to obtain it. With pain relief, comes renewal and hope. Days become brighter again, and the chance to live a more meaningful, productive life returns.

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Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband live in North Scituate, Rhode Island.

In addition to their work for the U.S. Pain Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation, they serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

Ellen has also been appointed for the advisory committee for Adaptive Telephone Equipment Loan Program.

National Pain Report invites other readers to share their stories with us.

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The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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