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Dec 12, 2019 12 min read

Cannabis got me off opiates after 25 years

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by The Cannabis Enigma Podcast
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After nearly 25 years of taking prescription opiates to treat chronic pain caused by a severe car accident, a friend suggested that Michael Miller try cannabis. At the age of 54, he tried marijuana for the first time — and it changed his life.

“I literally started crying heavily because I couldn’t believe that I was being introduced to my body for the first time in 25 years and that put me on a mission,” Miller says on The Cannabis Enigma Podcast. “I flushed my pills I felt the duty and obligation to help others like me, and to pay it back like he helped me.”

Today, Miller is a medical cannabis journalist, investor, businessman, and evangelist. But we wanted to talk to him about his personal story.

From how he takes his cannabis during the day and what he uses to sleep at night, to what he does when he travels internationally, to how he first told his children that their father smokes marijuana — Michael Miller’s story is one that any prospective medical cannabis patient should hear, and most current users can relate to.

“I didn’t tell my children for many years because I’m not a victim, and I’m not whining or blaming anybody, but I’ve learned sometimes you need to have a story to help others because then people will see that it’s just Michael, it’s not the conference host, it’s not a speaker, I’m just a regular guy who has the same pains and ouwies like every other human being.

Produced by Elana Goldberg and Matan Weil, edited and mixed by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, sound engineering by Yoav Morder. Music by Desca.

Full Transcript:

Elana Goldberg: Thanks for joining us, Michael. I’m really happy to be here with you today.

Michael: It’s my pleasure, Elana, it’s so great to be with you also.

Elana: So what I would like for us to start with is tell us why cannabis, what’s your story with this plant?

Michael: That’s a great and very long story, but I’ll try to make it as short as possible for you and your listeners, but the bottom line is like everybody else in this industry everybody has a story. Even most of the business people that I’ve met there’s a story behind it, it’s not just about a rate of return.

Elana: Right.

Michael: It’s about doing something more than that. Um, my story is I’m a simple mid class kid from Cincinnati Ohio both parents from the Bronx, my father’s first job was there. I grew up in a very conservative family, conservative religion and cannabis was never part of my life and being the firstborn son of a Jewish mother I would never do anything to not make my mother proud, so I would not have even considered it, and never smoked a cigarette, never smoked a joint until I was 54 years old.

So why, why at 54 did I decide to do that? In 1990 I was practicing law in California and having come from NYU Law School I had the mindset of a New Yorker and put a foot into the street thinking that a car would stop in a crosswalk and it didn’t, and that changed my life. I was fortunate it was a SUV and not a small car, so it lifted me up, but I broke about a third of the bones in my body, I didn’t know for 15 days whether I would walk again, and then it was about a year and a half process to get to there.

That was followed up by a number of major issues also in vehicles, stay away from me in vehicles, that’s for sure.

Well my mother said things happen in threes, but after the last incident, which was only five years ago when a millennial texter hit me and injured all of the earlier problems, and I had to undergo more spinal surgery and I was in a neck brace, and a friend said we need to get you off the pills because I started taking pills, Alana, in 1990 of July.

Almost 25 years of opioid use, not believing that there was an alternative and not having one doctor my entire life say, “Michael, there’s another way.”

Elana: So what did your friend tell you that kind of changed everything for you?

Michael: Yeah, well first I thought he was crazy because he said, “Come over to the house, have a nice meal with the family and I’m going to give you some weed”, then I said, “I don’t smoke weed, weed is for bad people, I would never do that”, and he said “First of all it’s not for bad people, it’s actually used as a medicine and has been”, but I said I don’t smoke.

He said, “Well, you don’t have to smoke now”, and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get it into my body, I was that clueless. He said, “Just come over.” So I did because he was a friend and he had a tincture, which he had actually made it himself in his kitchen, and he put this olive oil based tincture under my tongue and it wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it was very herbal, a little bitter aftertaste from the olive oil and he said, “Just tell me how you feel in about 45 minutes.”

I completely forgot, the time started to pass, and in about that amount of time he said, “Are you okay?” and I said, “Yeah, I’m okay. Why?” and he said, “Well, you’re crying”, and I didn’t even realize and I felt my face and he said, “What’s going on?” and I said, “You’re not going to believe it, I don’t feel pain right now”, and he said, “I believe it, that’s why I’m having you here.” And I was overwhelmed, I literally started crying heavily because I couldn’t believe that I was being introduced to my body for the first time in 25 years and that put me on a mission, I flushed my pills I felt the duty and obligation to help others like me, and to pay it back like he helped me.

I became an advocate, a lobbyist to caregiver, and then business opportunities happened as a result, but that was only as a result of the suffering and the issues that I went through.

Elana: And so this was just from day to day, you were able to come off the opioids that you’ve been taking for 25 years you said, and move on to a cannabis treatment?

Michael: It’s pretty shocking. A lot of doctors have said, “You were able to do that stone cold?” and the answer is yes, I wasn’t… I was… In my mind I was abusing because I was taking something I didn’t really need to take to eliminate pain but I wasn’t abusing as far as quantity. 

So I had changed definitely from Oxycodone, to Percocet, to Vicodin, you know, the whole panoply of the opioid pharmacopeia and I never experienced any type of withdrawal. Whenever a doctor says to me, “Well, there’s no clinical evidence”, I simply say, “What about my events?” Right, I mean, in this industry it’s the only industry where the patient is driving the medicine instead of the doctors driving the medicine.

Elana: Yeah, well, it’s the anecdotal evidence that comes into play.

Michael: That’s right, and with… Well, that may not be able to sell a pharmaceutical product. Or get it across legal frameworks in Israel, or certainly in my country with die FDA I think we’re at a point right now with all the history and the documentation, and the anecdote of the relief of suffering with this miraculous plant that it is what it is. And the fact of clinicals at this point is almost what I feel is something that our governments can point a finger to.

Elana: Right. And I want to go back to where you were telling us about starting the treatment. Did you continue on with cannabis tinctures, had did you modify your treatment along the way?

Michael: Yeah, that’s a great question and still to this day I travel with them and I fortunately learned there’s no airport in the world that can tell the difference between e-juice and cannabis oil, and I bring all my oils with me and I have a Sativa during the day. That allows me to be creative and very focused, but it does not get me technically high or feel intoxicated, a little body buzz, but nothing… I’m the best me I think when I do that I do two of those during the day right when I wake up, and then early afternoon. One little eyedropper full, and then in the evening time to help sleep I’ll take an Indica tincture, sometimes I’ll take a couple of puffs because I do enjoy smoking.

But what they’ve developed now is a methodology where to keep you asleep you take a capsule of an oil. Which allows you to sleep. The initial puffs and the tincture will put you to sleep, but the key was sleep and a sound night of REM is staying asleep. So the vitamin E capsule will dissolve in your stomach three to four hours after you go to sleep.

So let’s say two to three in the morning at some point the tincture is wearing off, the smoking is wearing off, normally one would wake up and maybe start the head spin again and have to take another, but this way the pill has dissolved and now that’s taking effect, so that keeps me asleep. And that’s been extraordinary.

Elana: And this is all just a matter of your own process of trial and error, or your working in conjunction with a doctor or a sort of a practitioner?

Michael: Unfortunately, there’s never been a doctor that has helped me in my life and fortunately for people like Mara Gordon who know 99% more than any medical doctor, with respect, to clinical and anecdotal and dealing with patients who are suffering fortunately I have people like Mara in my life.

Elana: So you’ve been able to consult with people who understand these specific products that are available to help you?

Michael: Yes, yeah, and, and I’m a… I actually make my own medicine in my kitchen, I’m a sort of a holistic organic guy, and the honest answer is I mean why should I pay a $100 for this when I can make it for $3/$4 in my kitchen? There’s a great machine called MagicalButter.

Elana: Oh, I’ve heard about it in a video 

Michael: I think you get them even in Israel.

Elana: Yes.

Michael: You didn’t hear this, but buy it on Amazon, it’s fantastic. It’s like a stew pot and you simply push a button, and you can put up to four ounces into a pot and then you can mix either MCT oil or olive oil and it’s brainless, you can either make tinctures, oils, you can make butters based upon using actual butter or ghee. And you can also put in Shea butter, which will melt, and then you can make skin cream and topicals.

We actually did that, we we got 25 pounds donated by growers, and we made about $200 thousand worth of medicine, and we’re going to give them out to veterans over the holidays.

Elana: Wow, so it’s just dry flowers and then whatever fat that you need to mix in?

Michael: Yeah, we, we have to what’s called decarboxylate. Meaning you have to take… You have to heat the plant. To turn the acids into THC and CBDA into you know THC that can be used by the body and has a psychoactive or medical affect.

So you heat that in the oven at a 120 degrees for 20/25 minutes, you take it out like a turkey dinner. Then you take the decarboxylated flower and put that in the MagicalButter machine.

Elana: Amazing. I’m interested to hear-

Michael: Come over some time, we’ll cook.

Elana: Yes, sounds fun.

Michael: [laughs]

Elana: I’m interested to hear about, you know, how this personal experience turned into a career, or it really sounds like more like a mission for you.

Michael: It’s becoming sort of both. I have other things that I do, I formed, with Dr Sandra Carrillo who is a speaker here also, we have a consultancy called Medicana and we advise on both legal, financial and medical matters and that’s been fantastic and we’re doing that in five countries now. Um, I’m about to launch a very large investment fund in the space. And hopefully a lot of those cheques will be written in your country because you have the greatest minds, the greatest technology when it comes to agricultural technology.

Elana: Right.

Michael: And the wonderful work being done at Hebrew U and the Technion with Rafi [Mechoulam] and Dr Amor and Dedi [Meiri], they’re just extraordinary people, and all the people that work with them. So those are the business things. The interesting thing where I’m sort of mentally bifurcated I have a creative side with my journalism, my writing, my podcast, but that allows me to meet, you know, interesting people like you, and to learn more about each country I go to but by nature that also drives some business also.

Elana: Right. Well, it’s nice how it all comes together.

Michael: Yes, yes, it is really nice and… But at the heart and soul of it like the most important things that have happened to me in the last few days is literally numerous conversations that have brought tears to my eyes, you know. A father who has a 10-year-old son who has a malignant brain tumor from Bulgaria where everything is illegal, and he travels to just learn from these doctors to self medicate his child. And to do something to prolong his life. 

A mother who has a seven year old child with epilepsy, I mean those are the things that really drive me and like people use to say was the conference a success, did you… And my view from conference also, if I met one person, Elana, if I got one business car that became an associate or a friend that was worth it, but for me now it’s not about those cards, it’s about hearing those personal stories and part of the reason I’m… It was difficult telling my story, I don’t really like talking about it.

And I didn’t tell my children for many years because I’m not a victim, and I’m not whining or blaming anybody, but I’ve learned sometimes you need to have a story to help others because then people will see that it’s just Michael, it’s not the conference host, it’s not a speaker, I’m just a regular guy who has the same pains and owies like every other human being.

And if some of my pain can help eliminate or prevent or limit another person’s pain, especially a child or a mom or a dad, you know, that, that is what gets me through the day now, that’s what drives me.

Elana: Yeah, it’s about touching people and connecting with people I guess. How did your children take it when you eventually shared your story with them?

Michael: Um, well, you know, like most kids they’re like: “Come on, dad, you’re full of shit”, right, you know, I’m in reasonably good shape now and people would never think and that’s because I’ve moved from lifting weights and running and biking to just yoga and swimming. And I need to do that every day just for mental fitness.

Elana: Yeah.

Michael: But I maintained whatever the exterior looks like, so they just think I’m, you know, the healthy guy and who goes to work every day, so they didn’t believe it for a while. Then they… I’m not sure if they completely believe it.

But the challenge was dealing with the actual taking of cannabis and how do you tell that kid who’s learning every day that smoking kills, smoking is bad for you. That you smoke. How do you tell them when they go through the history books, or that you’re in a state that isn’t legal, fortunately California is, but it’s still only… Most people don’t and it’s only 19% of the cities and counties in California allow legal weed, it’s the power is in the local communities.

So they can have another parent or an uncle, or an aunt and go into a medicine cabinet and it can be full of narcotics just like Wallgreens or CVS and that’s okay because a doctor said it’s okay, and he graduated medical school, but if they see somebody doing cannabis the gut reaction is not they’re doing that for medical reasons, they’re doing that because they want to get stoned, and that’s not my brand, that’s not who I am and of course I like to relax with a joint or a glass of Scotch like anybody else.

But that’s not the message you want to give a child. So they’re understanding it more now and now my son, my daughter I think I still embarrass because daughters, she’s 17, my son, I’m finally cool in my son’s eyes because he can say to his teacher: “You know, my dad’s in the weed business”, and just to watch the reaction, I think he likes to push buttons.

Elana: [laughs]

Michael: It’s funny.

Elana: That sounds like you’ve really given them something, you know, to talk about there.

Michael: That’s for sure, yeah.

Elana: So, Michael, what advice would you give to someone who is in a position like you were in kind of 20 years ago using opioids to deal with pain and looking to find a better solution?

Michael: Um, the first thing I would say is don’t rely just upon people that graduate medical school. Most doctors, unless they’re really out of the box and secure, will not make a suggestion that could risk losing their license.

That’s the key. Um, there are a number of doctors in the United States that will take patients or who have left the so-called accepted medical community and are now advising, one of the most fantastic is Dr Dustin Sulak who is in Maine and has his own line of products called Healer, he’s one of the leading practitioners and clinicians, he’s had about 20 thousand patients.

Um, he’s I would say, you know, a male version of Mara extraordinary guy, but he also is well known for medical education programs for doctors and he has extraordinary tools that are available online, you can just go to healer.com.

So the first part is education, educate yourself. Um, you know your body better than I know your body. And better than your doctor knows your body. Understand what your symptoms are and understand what you’re trying to do, and understand that what you’re putting in your body has very bad effects even though you think a lot of them are good effects. And you always want to start slow and at low dose, so the first step is accepting, the second step is realizing you’re not doing something wrong, if it is illegal in your country, and in your country you can get medical advice.

Elana: Yes.

Michael: You can go get a prescription. Um, don’t worry about what other people are going to think, care about yourself. Put yourself first. Life is short and we only have one.

Elana: Sounds like really good advice to end off on. Thanks so much for talking to me today, Michael.

Michael: It’s my pleasure, I’m so thrilled we finally got together, and I really appreciate everything you’re doing to help push the education and the message forward all across the world. Thank you, Elana.

Elana: Thank you.

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