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Managing Pain With Medical Cannabis: Miguel Garcia’s Story

Mary Jane Gibson

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Miguel Garcia was born with a rare skin disorder called epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a group of diseases that cause a defect in anchoring between the epidermis and dermis, leading to painful blisters, infections, and wounds. Miguel spent the first six months of his life in the ICU, suffering from the loss of 40 percent of his skin. Doctors told Miguel’s family he would be lucky if he survived past his sixteenth birthday. Today, he is 25 years old.

Miguel began using medical cannabis to relieve symptoms of EB at the age of 16. This summer, filmmaker Gabriel Rios is shooting a documentary about Miguel’s inspiring story and his battle against EB, documenting his use of medical cannabis, doctor’s appointments, life with friends and family, the day-to-day obstacles he encounters, and more. For more information about the documentary, visit migueldoc.com.

Read on for Miguel’s story of medicating with cannabis to treat epidermolysis bullosa.

I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA. I first started using cannabis at the age of 16, with my best friend, in my sophomore year of high school. At first, it was to get high with friends—I had no idea about the health benefits of medical cannabis. The first time I smoked, I wasn’t sure if I was high or not… but I told my best friend how much fun it was to ride my bike back to his house with a big smile on my face.

Two weeks after my first time smoking cannabis, the skin on my nose broke out, giving me a bad facial wound on the entire left side. I hate face injuries. Soon I was researching cannabis and the positive effects it can have on the body, helping with inflammation, insomnia, appetite, pain management and more. I decided to medicate again to see if there were any results with my nose injury. After a week or so of medicating, it had shrunk and scabbed into a pea size. My best friend and I decided I should continue to medicate, but I wanted to keep it a secret. I’ve lost friends because they think weed is this terrible “gateway” drug. It wasn’t until about three years later that I finally decided to let friends and family know: I smoke marijuana.

The ways in which I medicate vary depending on what I’m using. I like to switch it up between concentrates (dabs) and flowers to try and maintain my tolerance. I’m not much of an edible fan, because I don’t like the taste of the plant product, and I don’t like to wait to feel the effects. And due to my disorder, I have a very small esophagus, which makes it hard to eat anything.

I like to dab on my Quartz Castle nail in my room, listening to music on full blast, dancing and smiling, feeling good and irie on my favorite extractions—Prime Extractions, West Coast Cure Hardcore OG, and many others. When I medicate with flower, I love rolling it up into a joint so I can taste the flavor. Medicating with flower is a bit harder, because grinding it up is difficult for someone with no hands. Rolling has become a little bit easier, thanks to Futurola rollers. Flowers are also difficult to medicate with because it’s really hard for me to flick the wheel of a lighter, so I carry a torch lighter and hemp-line wick. I really love toking up on flowers more than concentrates, but I am not able to medicate with flowers comfortably in my home. That’s why I tend to medicate with dabs—it’s more convenient.

The strains that I love to medicate with are mostly indica. If I find a hybrid close to 80/20 indica dominant, I’ll choose that. I have major anxiety and stress, so if I medicate with a sativa, I might get a severe panic attack that could ruin my day. Strains I absolutely love are OGs and Kushes, as well Cookies, Bubba’s, Lavender, Skywalker and Purps. They make my body feel at ease and relaxed, taking away anxiety and pain, yet help keep my mind going and thinking. They also make my appetite kick in. I tend not to eat a lot, so getting the munchies is great for my health. CBD-rich strains such as ACDC, Harlequin and Charlotte’s Web are hard to find, but when I can find CBD, I really enjoy medicating with it. CBD physically takes away the pain, rather than mentally, as THC does.

Besides smoking and inhaling cannabis, I also use medical marijuana as a topical ointment. EB covers my body with open wounds, and I treat them using a CBD ointment called Emu 420 by Cannariginals. Emu 420 is a salve mixed with CBD and other rich ingredients to hydrate, treat and heal wounds, burns, dry skin, migraines and more. I also work with a local cannabis activist to make a bath salve that I use when showering to apply directly to my wounds.

Medicating with a natural plant, grown from the earth, is such a blessing. I slowly eased off all my prescribed pain killers like hydrocodone, oxycodone and Tylenol with codeine, and am now three years sober from all pain management pills. Medical cannabis has helped me live a happier, healthier life in my 10 years of being a Prop 215 patient.

This documentary started as a student project with Gabriel Rios. Gabriel and I immediately felt a strong connection and decided to take this project a step further. We want the world to know, not just my story, but the story of what others with EB have to go through. We really need support and donations to make this film happen. To sign up for the mailing list and donate to the project, please go to migueldoc.com.

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