A Sober Person’s Guide to Medical Marijuana

for Vice

It’s a strange thing to obtain a medical marijuana card after nearly a decade of sobriety. My decision to quit drinking was less of a healthy life choice, and more the only way to stay alive. Though alcohol was my substance of choice, I learned in treatment and still largely believe that “mood altering” substances of any kind are very dangerous for folks who have struggled with addiction. So how, nine years after getting sober, did I find myself waiting outside a cannabis dispensary in California, with a prescription from a “weed doctor” clutched tightly in my sweaty hand?

A few things happened: First, a fellow recovering alcoholic told me about something called CBD, which stands for cannabidiol. CBD, a component of cannabis, offers many of the medical properties of marijuana, without the psychoactive effects. Figuring it was (literally) the pipe dream of a sober alcoholic, I didn’t think much of it. But then I read an article about Charlotte’s Web—a high-CBD strain of cannabis that was both non-psychoactive and very successful in treating a young girl’s seizure disorder. Further research indicated that my friend had indeed been telling the truth, and CBD was a real thing with real medical benefits.

If you’re in recovery and interested in exploring high-CBD treatments but are nervous about taking any potentially psychoactive medication, here’s a little advice based on how I went about it, and what I’ve learned over the past year.

Talk to your doctor.
Not the “weed doctor” but your general practitioner, who should know about your history of substance use and/or addiction. My doc knew all about my history of alcoholism; we had talked about it at length when she was deciding if she should prescribe Vicodin for my migraines. Prescribing opioids to someone who has a propensity for addiction didn’t make either of us entirely comfortable, but neither did leaving me in blinding pain. A few years later, when I started getting panic attacks, we talked about how a drug like Xanax might impact my recovery. (continued)

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Katie MacBride is a freelance journalist, essayist, and co-founder/associate editor of Anxy magazine. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, Vice, Playboy, and Buzzfeed, among other publications. Follow her on Twitter: @msmacb

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