*Editor’s note: Names have been changed to protect the individuals quoted.

 

Some might think “Here goes another Gen-Y spewing their love of cannabis!” No. That is not what this is. You might be surprised to know that up until a few years ago, I was strongly against the use of marijuana — at all. I thought marijuana was a drug, plain and simple. Not only that, but a drug that was frequently abused, as evidenced by the fact that the only marijuana users I ever saw were, indeed, your classic stoners.

 

As I wandered through my first few years in college, I had plenty of memorable encounters. I saw a never-ending revolving door of people that spoke of the beauty and health benefits of marijuana that were reaping none of these so-called benefits. In my mind, they only abused the talk and research surrounding it to justify their abuse of the drug.

 

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Eventually, in 2009, I met a girl named Betsy*. She and I connected almost instantly. She was gorgeous, incredibly intelligent, a lover of psychology, and extremely laid back.

 

As our friendship grew, she eventually told me her story, and it shook me to my core.

 

When she was in middle school, she suffered from severe depression, bouts of insomnia, and frequently skipped meals due to depression. Eventually, her depression led her to self-mutilate her body. As time went on, her habits because dangerous and frequent — every night before bed, she would habitually cut herself. Betsy had tried everything: therapy, tons of medication (each of which she could list with awful side effects), herbs, vitamins, yoga, meditation, as well as some other holistic medicine. Nothing seemed to work for her, and she began to lose hope.

 

Then she recalled a time in which she was with her friends; they offered her some marijuana to help her relax. She agreed.

 

The first time she tried it, she described it as a miracle. For the first time in years, she had no desire to cut and more of a desire to eat. She did not describe it as a high, but simply a different kind of sedative than the multitudes of prescription drugs that she had been prescribed over the years. This did not leave her feeling heavy and numb like prescription sedatives, but rather more normal and relaxed.

 

Soon, a new pattern emerged. Every night before bed, she would smoke, eat an orange, and go to bed. She would then wake up, rested, relaxed, and ready for the day ahead.

 

As she spoke, I could easily hear the appreciation in her voice. The relief that she felt having found something that actually worked was written all over her face. As someone who has experienced depression, I knew that look; I knew that feeling.

 

It changed me. My entire view of marijuana and medical marijuana shifted. This was before the benefits were plastered all over the internet, before TED Talks, before all of the resources I have at my fingertips now. The only thought going through my mind at the end of her story was, “I am so glad it works. I am so glad she found something that works.” I knew that I would never want to take her medicine away from her; she benefited from it and who was I, or anyone else, to deny her that?

 

In our society today, medical marijuana for dying cancer patients and for children with severe seizure disorders is becoming more of the norm out of compassion. If it works, why deny them the benefits?

 

Medical marijuana virtually cures severe seizure disorders.  The House of Representatives has passed an amendment that stops the DEA from targeting medical marijuana in states that it is legal. Colorado has seen a drastic turn in their economy, employment rates, and even a decrease in crime in Denver since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Washington state has followed suit and legalized recreational marijuana.

 

From legislation to societal views on marijuana, things are changing.

 

If Physical Illness Was Treated Like Mental Illness (imgur.com)

However, there is a case to be made for how medical marijuana helps those with depression, anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, and a variety of other mental illnesses.

 

Mental illness is still treated in a way that is completely separate from that of a physical illness, which is perfectly exemplified in this viral Helpful Advice comic. Can you imagine telling someone with food poisoning, “I get that you have food poisoning and all, but you have to at least make an effort”?

 

In my personal experience, most people assume anyone using medical marijuana for depression is someone that is “faking it” or simply abusing the system, but that is not always the case!

 

People with mental illness that benefit from medical marijuana need the same compassion, and the same logic stated earlier should be applied: if it works, why deny them the benefits?

 

Throughout the span of human history, no system has ever been perfect. There will be people who misuse it and who abuse the system. However, there is a stigma that should not be attached to medical marijuana and the benefits for mental illnesses.

 

How do you feel about the use of medical marijuana for mental illness? Do you have a story that changed your perspective on medical marijuana (or marijuana in general)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me @kateeb790!