Amy Mellen, Maryland
Amy Mellen knew something about pain from the hormonal migraines she began experiencing in 1998. But a major car accident in 2006 ushered her into the world of severe chronic pain.
After her vehicle flipped several times, she awoke in the hospital with an IV drip delivering the first of the opiate painkillers that would come to define her life for the next eight years. Those IV narcotics were her introduction to real intoxication, since she’d never used drugs or been drunk. She left the hospital with a supply of pills that would be refilled through nine surgical procedures on the hand and arm she nearly lost in the accident. Then came the complications. The next 17 years would bring the total to 20 surgeries, but the turning point was another traffic incident.
Prescribed gabapentin for her pain, Amy blacked out while driving. Prior to that, she’d never had a speeding ticket, but she lost her drivers’ license as a result of that incident and realized she had to find an alternative and get off the pain meds.
In October of 2014, Amy tried smoking cannabis. After four months, she tried topical cannabis medicines. Two months of that and she began ingesting cannabis oil extracts. The oil made the difference. Soon, she was cutting back on the Baclofen, OxyContin, Effexor and Klonopin she had relied on since 2006, though she would go through detox 27 times before pulling free.
“It literally changed my life,” Amy says. It not only helped control her pain, but within two months of starting it, she was shocked to discover the cannabis oil treatment had reversed her Type 2 diabetes, further evidence of the role cannabinoids have in regulating insulin.
Within a year, Amy had also lost over 100 pounds. Now, three years after starting cannabis therapy, she’s dropped over 200 from the 400 pounds she’d reached at her heaviest. That transformation has come with a sense of obligation to share her experience with others.
“I knew people need to hear my story,” she says. That meant building a social media network beginning with a simple meme with bullet points of what cannabis had done for her. Amy’s facebook group Squash the Stigma now has over 2,000 members who use it to sort through information about cannabis and ask questions where they won’t be judged.
“If you don’t have experience with cannabis, you can be so overwhelmed, there’s so much information,” Amy says. “It’s hard for us new people – you don’t know who to ask, and it can be hard to know who to believe.”
Through social media and other networking, she tries to help other patients through the learning process about dispensaries and how to save time and money. In December 2015, Al Jazerra released a documentary on her healing with cannabis, showing how cannabis can be an “exit drug” for people dependent on opiates and other medications or substances.
Amy is also lobbying for better medical cannabis policies. Originally a registered patient in Oregon, before her husband’s work took them to Maryland, she testified at the Oregon Health Association and before the state legislature. Once in Maryland, Amy became the second qualifying patient registered in the state and has been working to push forward implementation in the state, which has been painfully slow. Maryland approved medical cannabis four years ago but still does not have a functioning system to provide patients with medicine.
Last year, Amy received an ASA scholarship to attend the National Unity Conference in Washington, D.C., where she networked with experts and other activists and, as she says, got her first dose of real advocacy, taking those new skills to Capitol Hill. From there she went to a conference in Baltimore, and then returned to Oregon as an invited participant in the Cannabis Science Conference in Portland.
“In 2011, I had a dream I’ve now had three times,” Amy says. “I was standing at a podium holding up a book about my life. I didn’t know then what it meant, but what I’m doing now is writing that story.”
Al Jazerra documentary Part 1: https://youtu.be/VpEQaa6jzUU, Part 2: https://youtu.be/dp1WYSFVWb4
Onebeautifulhotmess page link https://www.facebook.com/onebeautifulhotmess/
Squash the Stigma group link: https://m.facebook.com/groups/19618817083973
This profile was originally published in the October 2017 ASA Activist Newsletter
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