How Weed Saved My Life

graphic by Lucinda Strol

graphic by Lucinda Strol

I was sixteen in the back corner of my acre lot with my boyfriend, best friend and her boyfriend. It was valentine’s day and my boyfriend thought losing my weed virginity would be romantic.

That was the first time I got caught smoking pot.

I took a break after that, since weed was illegal and I was a good child, obviously. I waited another year and decided to try again, this time at a house party. I puffed the cheap glass bowl in my hand and, I cannot make this up, five police officers bombarded the door and started rumbling through the party of stoned and drunk seventeen-year-olds. That was the second time I was caught smoking pot.  

My strict Catholic mother pulled up to the party in her blacked out escalade, fuming. She could smell the potent stench as soon as I jumped in her car.

My mom is a nurse practitioner and worked as an ER nurse her entire adult life. My father is an endocrinologist and drugs are not his forte, illegal ones anyway. To say that weed was not allowed in my house would be an understatement.

In my mother’s eyes, pot is a “disgusting habit” which, if brought or smoked under her roof, would earn me a homeless status and emancipation papers.

But I was an eighteen-year-old about to enter college as a self-proclaimed “arty girl” so of course I smoked weed again. And had a seizure…at a house party (not a weed induced seizure, but a seizure nonetheless.)

You would think that after all of these negative experiences I would ban myself from inhaling illegal substances, but then I realized the power of medical marijuana.


Freshman year of college I was placed on suicide watch, had weekly anxiety attacks in my dorm bathroom, mandatory check ins with health services and the counseling center and overworked parents who just wanted to make sure I was still alive. The last thing I thought would help me actually ended up changing my entire life, as dumb as that sounds.

During an appointment with my regular psychiatrist, the most professionally sarcastic woman I’ve ever met, my freshman self nervously asked, “is it bad that smoking weed makes me feel better?” She turned to me and let me know that a lot of her patients feel the same way and that she would be willing to sign me a medical marijuana license if North Carolina would just be a little more progressive and just make it legal already (we’re looking at you Roy Cooper).

 It was comforting knowing I’m not the only one to occasionally smoke weed rather than consuming legal CBD to relieve my constantly buzzing brain. Actually, a new study published earlier this year by Scientific Reports found “strongest correlation with therapeutic relief, compared to the more socially acceptable chemical found in cannabis, CBD.” Even with this knowledge, though, I find myself stigmatizing my weed use and hiding it from most people in my life. What would my parents think?


My healthy, young grandma received her cancer diagnosis January of this year, 2019. She told me she did not want chemo or radiation, and I fully respected that choice. But at her doctor’s appointment the following week the prognosis was declared: Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer; two weeks to live without treatment. So of course, my grandma started both chemo and radiation.

She lost over 40 pounds, cried at comments she would normally laugh at, she spent lunch in the bathroom throwing up breakfast. She was fully deteriorating in front of my family’s eyes.

 I live 638 miles from home, so I can’t be there as much as I would like. I received updates from my mom and grandma daily. One afternoon, my grandma called me and sounded like herself again, I was caught off guard. “Sam! Guess what?? I’m high. Did you know they make marijuana GUMMY BEARS?” I laughed. “Yes Grandma JJ, I went to Colorado this summer, remember?”  

Bonding with my grandma over pot...pot that my mom bought my grandma…strange.


Now I’m 21 and I’m at my uncle’s funeral sitting next to my shivering grandma and my mom. My uncle was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer two weeks after my grandma and died the week after spring break. Imagine: her sitting there swaddled like a child in the funeral home’s only blanket and holding back nausea.

But the weed honest to god helped. So much. She moved out this week. She’s back home, eating, walking, laughing. My parents remind her to take her THC pills in the morning to get her going.

 My parents are understanding of the movement toward legal marijuana now. I even told them I was writing the article on weed and they didn’t pay it any mind. I guess that’s all you can ask for, right? Parents who support your mental health enough to consciously educate themselves about the positive aspects of weed consumption.

People tend to give me shit for being pro medical marijuana and call me a “liberal college student.” But it changed my life, my grandma’s life, and the lives of so many people suffering with anything from PTSD to stage four lung cancer.


Today I’m sitting in my apartment reminiscing on my junior year in college. No anxiety attacks, no suicide attempts, no more worried parents.

Weed is not what I hold responsible for my mental recovery, but it opened my eyes to a life without teeth grinding anxiety and overwhelming thoughts of darkness.

Today my grandma is alive and I am too, so to say that weed saved my life is an understatement.