Holistic cannabis practitioner, Janice Newell-Bissex was sceptical when her dad was prescribed medical cannabis. Now she’s helping others access the ‘life-changing’ treatment and teaching the next generation of health professionals about its potential.
Like many people, Janice’s first experience with cannabis was at university. A month before her graduation, she decided she had to try it; she might never get another chance, she thought.
She soon realised that it wasn’t for her and didn’t cross paths with cannabis again until 2016, several decades later, when her dad fell ill.
Complications with surgery meant a five-day hospital stay turned into five-months. He suffered from a debilitating condition that caused blood clots throughout his body and eventually led to multiple spinal fractures and severe pain.
Although he never complained, Janice’s dad continued to suffer for a number of years with pain along with the side effects of traditional pain medication.
“This man who went into hospital as a very vibrant 82-year-old, came out disabled,” Janice recalls.
“He was just zombified by taking all these pain meds.”
After a four-day hospital visit resulting from one of these side effects, Janice knew she had to find an alternative.
At the time, medical cannabis had just been legalised in her home state of Massachusetts. Sceptical about whether the plant could really help, she hesitantly suggested it to her doctor.
To her surprise, he thought it was a great idea and prescribed her dad a high-CBD vape pen.
“He was in excruciating pain,” Janice says.
“We got home and turned the vape pen on and after a couple of puffs he said he was going to take a nap.
“He stood up and he said ‘wow, I’m not in pain’”.
This was the moment that Janice decided instantly to leave her nutrition business, which she had founded and ran for 15 years, and train to become a holistic cannabis practitioner.
Well-respected in her field as a dietician and nutritionist, the 61-year-old believed it was her responsibility to educate her fellow health professionals about the benefits of medicinal cannabis.
“I came from a place where I didn’t understand or even believe that this plant could help,” she says.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my field, I’m old enough that people know me and they respect me. I thought, if not me, who?
“I had a platform. I could help educate other health professionals about this who are sceptical because I understand their scepticism.”
Sadly, Janice’s dad passed away after only four months of taking medical cannabis.
“Now I do this in my dad’s honour,” she continues.
“I think this is his legacy. I can help people avoid the awful pain and side effects and if I can help one person not go through that, then it will be worth it.”
As a holistic cannabis practitioner, Janice consults people with a variety of conditions, from IBS and pain to anxiety and ADHD, helping them find a cannabis-based medicine that works for them.
Although she never claims that medical cannabis will work for everyone, or completely eradicate pain, many of Janice’s clients say the treatment is life-changing.
“I get such lovely notes from clients,” she says.
“I always tell everyone, this is not going to take your pain from ten to a zero. But it can take pain from an eight to a four and make it manageable. And people tell me that’s life-changing.
“It really is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done because people see significant improvements in their quality of life and it’s just astounding.”
As she struggled to find a high-quality product that she was happy recommending to her clients, Janice decided to launch a CBD label of her own.
“I never in a million years would have thought I would sell products under my own label.
“But as it turns out, it’s a good thing, because now I have control over the quality of medicine that my clients take. If it doesn’t work, I know that it’s not because it’s a poor quality product.”
Janice is now turning her attention to the next generation of cannabis health practitioners, teaching at John Patrick University in Indiana on its online master’s programme in integrative and functional medicine.
Two months ago, the university received approval to include a specific module on cannabinoid medical sciences for which Janice now serves as co-programme director.
“The course is geared to the working professional, so we have doctors, nurses, dieticians and social workers,” she explains.
“What I’m really passionate about is educating the next group of health care providers, because so many doctors don’t understand the power of this plant.
“It’s through no fault of their own; they weren’t trained in it.”
Janice hopes further education and research will help tackle the stigma surrounding cannabis and lessen the healthcare system’s reliance on pharmaceutical drugs.
“A lot of people are afraid,” she adds.
“There is still a lot of stigma and that’s part of my role, as I see it, to help people get over that stigma.”
Janice is also author of Simple Guide to CBD
Find out more at www.jannabiswellness.com
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