This couple is living happily ever after because of marijuana

And they are living happily ever after.

That’s total BS, right? But what if it wasn’t? After all, that is what we all want for each other. But at the same time, how many of us know couples who make it through all the hard stuff to get there?

I think I may have found a couple who have found their piece of that fairy tale thing.

It’s just that the twist of fate that brought this couple there didn’t come in the form of a magic kiss or glass shoe. It was a plant.

Rows of Cannabis plants are seen in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 40 miles from Venice, September 22, 2014. (Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters)

Rows of Cannabis plants are seen in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 40 miles from Venice, September 22, 2014. (Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters)

Who’s living happily ever after? Catherine and Glenn Lewis of Manchester, proprietors of Homegrown Healthcare of Maine, a medical marijuana caregiving business. They are that typical Maine couple: lifelong Mainers, attending the Gardiner and Boothbay school districts, high school sweethearts who got pregnant with their first child while still teens.

Photo of the Lewises provided by Catherine and Glenn Lewis

Photo of the Lewises provided by Catherine and Glenn Lewis

Like so many hardworking Maine couples, though, life hasn’t always been easy. The Lewises have endured their fair share of trials and tribulations on their way, the kind that can break a family apart or, at the very least, doom a family to cycles of poor health and dysfunction.

I like the Lewises’ story because it is one part love story, but their journey also represents a larger shift in our society — the idea of moving away from thinking about marijuana as a problematic drug to thinking about it as a restorative plant with medicinal potential. I began interviewing the Lewises, some of their clients, and their colleagues/fellow activists because I wanted to know more about using medical marijuana to treat opiate addiction.

(Click here for part one of the series; click here for part two.)

Glenn and Catherine were about as anti-medical marijuana as you can get until the early 2000s. Catherine says she was that “straight-laced cheerleader who never drank or did drugs,” but took care of her boyfriend when he did. Her former boyfriend, now husband Glenn, speaks frankly about his substance use in adolescence and early adulthood.

He was especially fond of alcohol and cocaine, leading to an extended stay in rehab. As part of his recovery at that point, he accepted that marijuana was a gateway drug and would inevitably lead to triggering a relapse with his other substance use problems. So, years later, when a medical practitioner suggested medical marijuana for a chronic medical condition, he was dead set against it.

As was Catherine. She speaks with equal candor about the difficulties she and their family faced as a part of Glenn’s addictions and she was quite sure that medical marijuana would bring the family right back to those days. On the other hand, her husband was suffering, and the treatments to help him came with difficulties for the family of their own.

Glenn had been first misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, but later doctors determined he suffered from a chronic spinal condition. He talked about “being numb from large doses of Valium and methadone.” The medications disconnected Glenn from the family, which hurt their marriage and their kids, the couple said.

Further, Glenn’s deteriorating condition rendered him unable to work. Again, they both spoke with brutal honesty about the effect not working and not earning had on Glenn’s sense “of being a man” and a head of the household.

He felt weak and emasculated, and low enough to consider trying medical marijuana. A friend, Bob Dyer, had exposed him to the concept many years before, someone “who was instrumental in my understanding that it was not just one plant. There are morning plants and night plants and plants for all sorts of different reasons.”

Another life-altering event came in the form of a car crash involving both Glenn and Catherine, bringing with it serious injuries and more chronic conditions. Suddenly Catherine found herself facing the same choices she had watched Glenn go through for so many years. Her research and her experiences supporting her husband led her to the same conclusion: Medical marijuana was worth a try.

It’s awesome to listen to Catherine talk about her journey. You can tell she came at this from a very “straight-laced, D.A.R.E. program mom” place. It’s utterly amazing that someone so anti-every drug, could be so knowledgeable and passionate an advocate for medical marijuana. At one point when she was showing me her pantry shelves with all the other herbs she grows and dries, I asked if she expected her life to turn out this way.

“No,” she said, smiling.

Catherine and Glenn speak with great pride about the path that led from them using medical marijuana to sharing its benefits with others. By becoming caregivers, they are able to produce plants and products for themselves and others, as well as teach clients who want to produce their own.

Government restrictions have limited the amount of research done on medical marijuana in the United States, but the Lewises try to be as research- and process-based as is possible. They develop an individualized regimen for new clients through a combination of available research and knowledge from previous successes. They also test the content of each harvest to ensure their products will contain exactly the dosage listed.

The Lewises stress the importance of concentrates and edibles —medical marijuana products that you don’t have to smoke — as part of what makes medical marijuana work for some clients. Some clients simply do not want to do anything that involves smoke. Also, while all their clients have been certified to use medical marijuana for legally sanctioned conditions like cancer and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, many simultaneously struggle with substance use disorders, much like Glenn.

Glenn and one of his clients, Dave, said legal prescriptions for benzodiazepines like Klonopin exacerbated their mental health, physical health and substance use problems. Others have become addicted to opiates prescribed for legitimate health conditions.

The Lewises, their colleagues, and their clients have been unanimous in their assertions that high dose concentrates can be a critical tool for detoxing from opiates. They say they and their clients have found success starting with a high dose concentrate and then slowly moving down to a lower and lower dose, until they settle on the best amount for longer term maintenance.

These people have been empowered by their journey to finding medical marijuana. They’ve taken control of their health, and their lives, in the face of medical challenges, and are now sharing their well-being with their community.

They all were unanimous in feeling empowered to be better people and better parents, and to have stronger families, and, like the Lewises, to work toward their piece of happily ever after.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.