Like many medical marijuana patients across the country right now, DeAnna Bigoni is afraid.
Four years after she started growing and making her own cannabis products to fight a years-long dependence on opioid painkillers, the Washington resident is afraid the Trump administration will take those rights away.
Whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions is deeming marijuana only “slightly less awful” than heroin or, more recently, asking Congress to undo federal medical marijuana protections, Begoni sees the former Alabama senator as a perpetual reminder that putting Donald Trump in the White House was the “biggest mistake our country has ever [made].”
However – like many Americans who have more recently turned to medical marijuana – Begoni is reminded of something else whenever Sessions opens his mouth: her own prohibitionist roots.
“I can listen to Sessions and all the crap he’s spewing lately, and I see myself in him; the way I was. And that’s sad. That’s so sad,” says Begoni, who thought of marijuana as nothing more than a gateway drug before it “completely changed” her life.
“Who was I in the past to tell other people what they could or couldn’t do? If it’s something that’s going to help someone, let them do it.”
It’s a lesson Begoni learned the hard way. After a workplace accident in December of 2010 damaged her sacroiliac joint – causing severe pain in her back, pelvis and hip – the former county employee was prescribed Norco. The powerful opioid worked – until it didn’t.
“I was getting 120 Norcos every 10 days, which is a lot... It killed the pain at first but you get an immunity to this stuff. The more you take it, the less it works, so you end up taking more and more and more,” says Begoni, adding that she experienced everything from constipation to severe mood swings while taking Norco.
Doctors then prescribed her the Fentanyl patch, which she says worked great for the pain – a little too great, actually.
“I could get so much done on the Fentanyl patch because I couldn’t feel the pain, but then I’d pay for it,” says Begoni.
“It gave me so much energy and I also wasn’t feeling the pain, so I’d try and do things I shouldn’t have been doing and then I’d be flat on my back for another week.”
When Begoni’s soon-to-be son-in-law – a military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder – recommended she try medical marijuana, Begoni was initially hesitant.
“I always thought [marijuana] was the gateway drug,” says Begoni. “I was the biggest hypocrite there was.”
Eventually, Begoni conceded – and never looked back. Today, thanks to Washington’s pioneering cannabis laws, Begoni makes all her own medicine from her home in Vancouver.
“I make everything you could imagine and it works,” says Begoni, whose favorites are cannabis edibles and infused lotions. “[Cannabis] relaxes your body and that’s a big start. Once you can get your body to relax and quit spasming... you have time to heal [correctly.]
“I can do things now. I have to take everything in moderation, but I can still do things and I know when to stop if the pain gets too bad... It’s not like when I was taking Norco or the patches and I didn’t know how much pain I was in until they wore off. Now I can enjoy my life.”
It’s stories like hers – including her own 180-degree turn on cannabis – that Begoni wishes both the Trump administration and the medical community would take into account.
“Doctors who put people on opiates... then give them nothing to [cope] with the cravings after it’s time to stop taking them” are what’s fuelling the country’s drug problem, says Begoni – not marijuana.
“There are so many people in this world with addictive personalities, who are given opiates and then told... they’re on their own,” she says. “That’s what’s causing the problem.”
That – and an administration bent on re-implementing cannabis prohibition, adds Begoni.
“Jeff Sessions doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about... He doesn’t understand that if they made medical marijuana available across the States, they wouldn’t have the opiate problem they’re having,” says Begoni, referencing the growing bodies of research that highlight medical marijuana’s potential as a safer alternative to powerful painkillers.
No matter what’s to come, Begoni says she’ll continue making her own medicine – for the simple reason that she has no other option.
“I will still grow no matter what. And if I get arrested for it, I get arrested for it. Because I have to... because cannabis has changed my life completely,” she says.
“I follow the laws. I do what I’m supposed to do. But when it comes to marijuana, I’m going to do what’s best for me.”
Read more in our 'Life After Opioids' series:
- An Injury Left Him In An Opiate 'Haze.' Medical Marijuana Pulled Him Out
- From 'Highly Addicted' To Happy Thanks To Cannabis: One Man's Journey After Opioids