Every one of our readers has a cannabis experience that’s worth sharing, including Sara Payan and Kayla Arielle. Though they are from different walks of life and have different tales to tell, they’re united in their desire to #end420shame. A hashtag campaign motivated by bringing to light the truth about cannabis and its users.
When Sara was young, she smoked cannabis occasionally. It was just something she did—at least until she turned 37 and started getting sick. For weeks, she couldn’t keep food down, but the doctors had no answers and incorrectly diagnosed her with IBS. That’s when cannabis came back into her life. A friend recommended it, and it worked so much better than the medicine her doctor prescribed. Unfortunately, that was just the start of her journey. A few months later, she was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer.
“My mom was a cancer researcher, so I knew that cannabis was good for pain and nausea, and I started using it during chemo,” Sara said. “It replaced several different drugs and cut down on my side effects and expenses, but I wish I would have known more.”
As Sara started to get her life back together a year after chemo, she realized she couldn’t return to her old job. Instead, she found employment at the dispensary that supplied her medication, and started working with other cancer patients and survivors. It was then that she discovered how much cannabis was helping those who truly needed it.
“After chemo, I had neuropathy in my hands and feet,” Sara said. “Now, we’re finding that patients who take CBD during treatment experience less neuropathy, and some people don’t get it at all. The more I learn about cannabis, the more fascinating I think it is.”
That was just the tip of the iceberg. Sara started studying and working with various professionals within the cannabis industry to discover how else it could help people. It’s the best part of her job as an educator and consultant for critically ill patients, she said.
“I get to support people through their sickness, giving them a shoulder to cry on and a place to feel safe. I also get to help patients who are using cannabis for the first time. It can be intimidating and scary, so to be able to walk them through my own experience and provide resources and education is an amazing job.”
“So many amazing people helped me when I was sick, and now I get to do that every day,” Sara said. “I get to support people through their sickness, giving them a shoulder to cry on and a place to feel safe. I also get to help patients who are using cannabis for the first time. It can be intimidating and scary, so to be able to walk them through my own experience and provide resources and education is an amazing job.”
Kayla’s entry into the world of cannabis was quite a bit different. It wasn’t until she was on high-dose steroids for over six months that she decided that something had to change. The Prednisone barely controlled her severe inflammation and swelling, and it had only worsened her depression and increased her anxiety. Thankfully, she was a research guru. Everything she found on medical cannabis said that it could help her, so she decided to give it a try.
“One night, I decided to shun the wool that had been pulled over my eyes, and I sat down to a two-foot water bong,” Kayla said. “My nervousness faded to excitement as I inhaled deeply. What followed was one of the most free-from-chronic-pain-and-worry nights of my life! I felt my mind expand and my joints sigh in relief as cannabis saturated my aching body.”
It wasn’t until 2012 that Kayla officially got her medical card and was able to legally use cannabis for her health. After that, doors seemed to just open. She ended up joining the industry. “[I wanted to] lend another legitimate voice to the movement and to help others find the relief that I found,” Kayla said. “It only seems fair. Why should I live in comfortable silence while others suffer?”
But it hasn’t always been a smooth road. Some of Kayla’s friends and family are still stuck on the gateway drug propaganda and refuse to see how cannabis can be a prescription medication, but that’s why she won’t back down.
“I’ve learned you will never change some minds, and that it is more important to focus on the people who may truly need the knowledge you share,” she said. “They are the ones who will learn and benefit the most.”
For both Kayla and Sara, their journey into cannabis has been filled with incredible discoveries.
“If you spent an afternoon sitting in my patient waiting area, you’d be amazed by how many people of all different walks of life are medicating,” Sara said. “How normal it really truly is. One thing that really surprised me about cannabis was when I met my first patient who had gone into remission with the help of cannabis oils. It was amazing to meet someone who was told they wouldn’t survive, and then they did much more than that.”
“What I find most surprising is the heart within this industry,” Kayla said. “D.A.R.E. painted pictures of hardened, cruel criminals out for cash with no regard for their fellow man, yet I find the exact opposite with every interaction. I am constantly confronted by compassionate caregivers, people who are willing to spare an extra dollar to give away what someone needs! There is a sense of community, driven by a common focus and backed by bravery.”
At the end of the day, there’s only one thing that they would want everyone to know about cannabis.
“The key to successfully having cannabis in our country is safe access,” Sara said. “That means we need to educate both patients and consumers about the adult-use market.”
“If I could share one thing, it would be only to take the time to give yourself a true education on cannabis,” Kayla said. “No one else is going to do it for you, and your health and humankind’s livelihood depends on it.”
Sara Payan is a cancer survivor and the director of education for the Apothecarium in San Francisco. She’s also a senior cannabis consultant for critically ill patients and serves on the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Task Force, working with supervisors in the city on legalization.
Kayla Arielle is an artist and cannabis advocate. She’s been a budtender in Colorado and is a patient of HoneyBear Farms. Cannabis helped her conquer her pharmaceutically induced “steroid psychosis” and taper safely from harmful prescription drugs.