Canna-Culture: Why Dispensaries Are Filled With More Than Rogues and Rebels.

Author: Isabel C. Andrews


Like all of us in life, I fill many roles. I mostly identify as a mom of a whip-smart and cheerful grade schooler. But, I also define myself by my work with the public-at-large, namely as a community educator for a medical cannabis provider in Illinois. Outreach in the MMJ industry is a job I’m passionate about, partially because I have the chance to help others while debunking myths and stigmas that have affected me on a very personal level. You see, I also fill the roll of a medical cannabis patient—an image I haven’t always wanted to accept.

Before I became a patient using medical cannabis, I was a very different version of myself. Years ago, you would have seen me emaciated and sick, not my usual energetic and bubbly self. I gave up some of my favorite pastimes—dancing being one. Working two part-time jobs, I struggled to get through my day without getting nauseous, so that I could maintain my meager 75 pounds of weight. The scale was my enemy as any ounce lost, put me that much closer to the TPN treatments my care team was recommending. I dreaded the thought of my daughter seeing a port in my body. Friends and family expressed their concern. You’re wasting away” and “You’re not yourself”, were resounding refrains from those close to me. Each interaction made me discouraged. I isolated out of protection. Few, including myself, had a solution for how I could get better. It became easier not to hear what they had to say.

Finally, a concerned friend private messaged me on Facebook. He sent me a link to a research article on my disease and how cannabis could help. Severely closed off and exhausted, I ignored the message. Despite my progressive and open-minded reputation among my friends, I didn’t understand his lifestyle. He was the one of the “partiers” in high school; a member of the cooler-than-me club. Of course he is pro-cannabis, I thought. My ears were closed.

In my mind, people who tried cannabis weren’t like me. I was functional, an ironic thought given my less-than-operative state. I was motivated and ambitious. I was a work-at-home mom who lived in the burbs. Enough said. Why would I give his suggestion a second thought? But, I did.

He didn’t let up. Article after article came in via private message. Partially out of annoyance and partially out of desperation, I started to read. I squinted. My brow furled. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t look away from the promising results. All evidence indicated that medical cannabis could help my body with inflammation. It could also decrease the pain and spasms as well as stop my nausea and vomiting—all relevant to my condition and essential to me becoming myself again. I became hopeful. But, alas, cannabis, couldn’t help me with my discomfort—discomfort with the image I held in my head about what it would mean to be a medical cannabis patient.


Confused and still on the fence about what direction to go, my friend and I finally started to have real dialogues. Probably some of the most significant and life-changing dialogues I’ve had. “What can it hurt?” he said. “What are your options at this point?” Or, perhaps the most compelling, “You need to get well for your daughter. What have you got to lose?” The kid thing did it for me. I had to get better for my little girl; whatever stereotypes I held in my head, needed to go. If cannabis gave me a chance to be the mom I wanted to be again, then so be it.

I became determined to get my medical cannabis card. Flash forward 8 months later; I was sitting in the patient waiting area of a clean and friendly dispensary, waiting for my patient care representative to call me back for my initial intake. The staff was smiling. There was no tie-dye; there were no glass jars. Marley wasn’t playing in the background. The experience was surreal, not because I was uncomfortable, but more because I was anything but that. I was extremely at home.

The only thing that was remotely jostling in the experience was the realization that I had been appallingly wrong in my view. As I looked around the dispensary I saw a wide-array of humanity—all of us different, but unified in our “patient-dom”. Across the way, I saw an elderly lady of about 70 or so. She was sorting things in her purse and I imagined perhaps she was organizing a picture of a grandchild or two. On the other side of the room, sat a single man, all of 40, texting on his cell phone as if he was reporting in to work, Not far from him a younger lady lay curled up a bit on the couch, sadly she was having a bad “pain day”.

My name was called, waking me from the momentary voyeuristic state that allowed me to see how wrong I had been. I walked back to the patient intake area, humbled. I learned about the dosing and strains that could work for my condition. I received information on the tinctures I had been hearing about and was given some “vape” recommendations. I walked out of the dispensary with my exit bag of products, hopeful. My mind changed forever.

I’m in remission now, thanks to the help of cannabis and other methods that I have chosen. But, what I remind myself of daily—whether I am getting ready for work or hugging my daughter before she gets on the bus to school—is that my suffering would have been less, had I let go of my unfounded beliefs sooner.

Medical cannabis patients, and cannabis users in general, come from all walks of life. They are not “counter-culture” or a fringe element, but rather and integral part of our society. They are sister, mother, brother, grandkid, husband, nurse, teacher, businessperson, artist and engineer. They are contributing members of society with dreams and aspirations, who now get to live a better quality of life because of this natural plant medicine. I am a proud member of their club—not that of rogue or rebel, but rather of open-minded trailblazers moving closer to a better quality of life.


Isabel Andrews is a Medical Cannabis Educator that helps Community Members Sign up for the Program in Illinois. For questions, you may contact her at 630-881-8375


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