In the 2017 General Assembly, Virginia voted to join other states with a regulated medical cannabis industry.
Now, parents can finally talk out in the open about the ways that cannabis helps -- or could help -- their children with medical conditions ranging from cancer to epilepsy to mental illness to autoimmune disease and more.
Sami Gregg-Montella is one of those parents. She reached out to Virginia NORML in hopes of being connected to other parents who believe their child benefits from the use of medical cannabis. Monday, November 12 at 6:30 pm, Sami and other parents will be gathering for an open conversation on the topic at New Realm Brewing.
If you have been hesitant or fearful to speak out on your views of medical cannabis, then this event is for you.
Get to know Virginia NORML member Sami Gregg-Montella better in this Q&A. We're sure many of you can relate to her experiences and mindset shifts.
Virginia NORML: Tell us a little about the evolution in your view of cannabis. What were you raised to believe about it? What do you believe now?
Sami Gregg-Montella: Growing up in a military family with a somewhat Catholic upbringing (I say that loosely because we only attended church on holidays) I was taught that marijuana was the “gateway” drug. So, I, like so many others, went with what we were taught and just believed it.
Bottom line I was ignorant.
I watched my brother, who lives in Colorado, use it for medicinal purposes due to a horrific accident. He was in rehab for a long time trying to regain abilities. His doctor had him on medical marijuana. Even then I didn’t read up on it, my opinion was the same. No judgement -- I just didn’t take time to research for myself to learn more about it.
That all changed though when my son got severely sick. Hospitalized eight times in a matter of six months. It was horrific. My son has been on pharmaceutical meds for seizures since he was four. He is now 21.
What are the things you love most about your son?
My son is an amazing young man. He is pure joy and his laughter lights up a room. Even in writing this it brings tears to my eyes. Good tears. I’m blessed to be his mama.
My son was diagnosed at an early age of two with cerebral palsy and visual impairment. Then at the age of four with autism and a seizure disorder. But these do not define him. He has taught our family so much. He sees the world through rose colored glasses and it’s beautiful. It’s a pure untainted love. He loves with no hesitation, laughs in the face of adversity, embraces life and all it offers and loves each and every person right where they are. And really that is what we are all called to do....love unconditionally. And he loves country music.
How have you found that using medical cannabis has impacted how he interacts with you and the rest of your family?
So, with my son’s drastic medical change, this is when I dug in and researched. I thought “there’s got to be something to medical cannabis and why it helps so many people.” I kick myself because I have learned so much since I started researching and my son could have been benefiting from it early on. Long term medication use has caused so much damage to his gut (known as the second brain) and gastric intestinal system. And even with pharma meds seizures were still happening.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in medicine and the medical field and its value, but I believe that if a plant can provide help (without the added synthetic junk we find in pharmaceutical meds), why would we not choose something natural? So we started my son on CBD and we have seen MAJOR improvement in so many areas! Seizures have decreased dramatically. His communication and processing has improved....its amazing to hear him respond appropriately and to see him process statements and even understand better. And his overall body inflammation has improved. Inflammation is the culprit to so many diseases and disorders. We have been able to remove one of his seizure meds completely.
So, we (my family) are firm believers in the medicinal values of cannabis.
Parents are just now starting to have open conversations about medical cannabis. What do you tell a fellow parent who has never given it too much thought -- since it was illegal -- up until now?
I am an open book with parents. I have no hesitation with sharing because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt the importance of this plant. I have learned so much and am still learning. It was hard resetting my mindset on what cannabis is, but I am finally there. I believe in this plant and all of the medicinal benefits. I believe God created this beautiful plant for a purpose of helping people and with that I believe in reform and regulation of this plant. My family and I look forward to continued positive outcomes both on the state and federal levels.
How did you find Virginia NORML?
I found Virginia NORML through Facebook. I saw a meeting posted where Scott Taylor was speaking and I knew I had to attend. I appreciate everything Virginia NORML is doing to lobby for permanent changes on the state and federal level.
What are you hoping that we can accomplish at the event at New Realm Brewing? How do you feel that parents can, and should, be an important voice in this conversation?
My hope with the event at New Realm Brewing is to allow parents a place to be comfortable with their thoughts and opinions on cannabis and to not be fearful of backlash. I know there are parents who are hungry for more education on this but just don’t know where to go or where to start. I see this event as a starting point for them.
This is where they can breathe, take it all in and then allow this to motivate them to continue to learn and advocate for change with NO FEAR.
Please join Virginia NORML this Monday, November 12, at New Realm Brewing in Virginia Beach at 6pm for an open conversation among parents. Please share and invite your friends on Facebook.