When Michele Ross was growing up, she lived opposite a crack cocaine house, and saw first-hand the destruction drugs can cause.
“I was very much against drugs, I was passionate about getting people off drugs because I’d seen the impact of what comes with them,” she tells Cannabis Health.
Ross, who appeared on US Big Brother in 2009, knew from an early age that she wanted to work in the fields of medicine and science.
She worked her way up and got a PhD in neuroscience, studying drug addiction. Her first assignment was a paper looking at the role of cannabinoids in growing new brain cells.
Her goal was to write about how cannabis was bad for the brain, but that’s not exactly what she discovered.
“Up until my early twenties, I was taught that cannabis was a very bad drug, it was lumped in with what we’d consider hard drugs,” she says.
She was determined to find out more about cannabis, and moved to California after her PhD to do post-doctoral work, where she was exposed to people using medical cannabis for the first time.
She was working on other areas of research, but she eventually fell into the cannabis industry because of her own health issues.
“I always had pain and fatigue, but it was difficult to get diagnoses for lots of things. I ended up with lead poisoning, blood clots on my lungs, lots of weird things – but no one could figure out what was wrong with me for a while.”
Cannabis was one of the few things that helped what Ross terms clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, which, according to some studies, is a disorder where sufferers have an imbalance in their endocannabinoid system.
“Whether it’s oil or edibles, it doesn’t seem matter what form it is, my body really needs cannabis,” she says.
“I was always in pain, tired, sick – if I have cannabis, my nerves work, I’m happy and not in pain and life is great.”
Ross realised if this discovery could be so drastic for her, it probably would be for others, too.
“As a scientist and a patient, if this works for me, I wondered whether it would work for others.”
This thought led Ross on to write a series of books based on her work.
“It’s exciting to be able to share my passion. I got myself out of a wheelchair and lived a life before all these medical problems happened to me, now I’m able to help others. I should be working in a lab, but I talk to patients instead.”
As well as her books, Ross writes online courses to educate people on taking medical cannabis. She also works for Veriheal, a medical technology company that provides cannabis education.
During the Covid-19, Ross has observed lots of people struggling with increased anxiety from losing their jobs, family members passing away and the general added stresses of the pandemic. Many have been unable to see their doctor.
“Patients come to us to learn about cannabis, a lot have said that if they didn’t have cannabis, they’d be drinking two bottles of wine a night, which we know isn’t safe or healthy.
“I’m glad I can offer services to patients during this time so they can go down a different route.”
And Ross says educating people about the medical benefits of cannabis is a big job, as people have a lot of misconceptions, including not knowing the difference between CBD and THC, which can be psychoactive.
“People don’t know where CBD might work for them and might not be best for others; there are huge differences between stage four cancer patients and people looking for help for their anxiety. People need a lot of hand-holding.”
She educates people on the legal side of medical cannabis, as there are different rules in different US states and cannabis isn’t legal on a federal level.
Ross is among the campaigners pushing for this to change. She’s also pushing for changes to the US banking system, which bans cannabis payments.
“I don’t sell CBD products in my practice, but my book, Vitamin Weed, has been flagged by numerous banks and credit card processing companies, who told me I’m high risk,” Ross says.
“I was stopped at the Canada/US border by the US, who thought I was shiping cannabis. I said this isn’t a code word, it’s a book. They treat my business the same as they would if I was telling people to shoot up heroin.”
Although Ross’s career has taken an untraditional route, she’s glad she has a neuroscience background.
“What excites me is the potential for cannabis to treat so many different neurological symptoms and conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and traumatic brain injury.
“I’ve been able to focus on brain health and talk to many patients coming from the research angle – the potential to complete revolutionise healthcare is here.”
Ultimately, she hopes to continue using her unique experience as a scientist and a patient to help educate others.
“As a patient with fibromyalgia, I see so many patients who see the stigma and not potential of cannabis,” she says.
“There’s so much miseducation around it, but cannabis has changed my life. I’ve come off 12 medications because of it. We can’t cure my fibromyalgia but, basically, I’m in remission.
“I want to spread that information and help as many people as I can, empowering patients to use medicine in personal way to relieve the multitude of symptoms that come with this disease, which is rooted in endocannabinoid deficiency.
“I believe cannabis should be the first treatment, not the last.”
And as a neuroscientist, she says her title helps.
“My Dr title is really important. It’s nice to be an authority in the field. It also helps when talking to politicians, and other doctors, who really want to listen to someone who has that hard science background.
“It doesn’t matter that I’m a patient and advocate – they see hundreds of patients it as anecdotal evidence. When I can give them a three-hour lecture of the endocannabinoid system, it’s real.”
- Medical Cannabis Division of Rokshaw Ltd Rebranding to Curaleaf Laboratories
- Breaking Ground: Morama Holdings Pioneers High-Quality, Organic Cannabis in Lesotho
- Patients to call for equity in medical cannabis access at UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
- Medical cannabis has ‘negligible’ impact on driving performance – study
- Research shows ‘remarkable’ effects of cannabis in treatment of skin cancer
- Optimism despite delays: Ireland’s journey toward cannabis decriminalisation
News5 months ago
FSA drops recommended daily dose of CBD to 10mg – everything you need to know
Pain6 months ago
Medical cannabis ‘effective’ and ‘fast-acting’ for neuropathic pain – study
News4 months ago
UK government accepts ACMD recommendations for CBD products
Industry4 months ago
First UK-grown cannabis medicine expected by end of 2023
News5 months ago
The Netherlands to launch cannabis legalisation pilot December 2023
News5 months ago
BBC documentary highlights ‘pot luck’ of access to cannabis on NHS
Science5 months ago
New cannabis research: cancer, Type 2 diabetes, autism, fibromyalgia and skin disorders
News4 months ago
Europe’s first legal cannabis dispensaries to open under sixth Swiss pilot