Patients reflect on medical marijuana use

Author Suzanne Beecher has a painful eye condition called BEB, or benign essential blepharospasm, and is sensitive to light.

"It’s kind of a rare disorder. It's a kind of dystonia, and what it does, the muscles around your eye, they want to slam shut," Beecher explained. 

Controlling it takes 13 botulinum toxin (Botox) shots every three weeks.

Gary Gwynn's 23-year-old daughter Katelyn had small, petit mal seizures since birth. 

"Most of her seizures are at night when she's sleeping and she's had anywhere between 15 to 20," he said.  

Pat Caudill's military experiences left him with severe post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. "I had trouble sleeping and then my hands started shaking."

Three very different patients are all finding relief in a once-illegal and taboo treatment, medical marijuana. 

Caudill buys his capsules at Trulieve, the first store to open in central Florida.

"My hands are steady as a rock.  Before they were very, very shaky. I can write. I can eat soup," he said.

Dermatologist Dr. Kathy Anderson is Caudills physician.  While she believes medical marijuana is changing lives but admits not everyone's on board.

It's not a prescription or an over-the-counter drug.  Dr. Anderson currently recommends cannabis to about 50 patients.  For many it's delivered right to their door. 

First, they must qualify for compassionate use in the state of Florida.

"The majority of my patients are cancer patients in different stages of cancer.t They have multiple cancers, going through chemo and the CBD is helping them feel better while they're undergoing chemotherapy," she explained. 

After establishing with a registered physician and with a second independent concurring doctor, patients with terminal illnesses can get two kinds of medical cannabis.

One contains "significant" levels of THC, the chemical associated with the marijuana high.  Others, with certain seizure disorders or severe muscle spasm, are restricted to CBD's, or cannabidiols, a strain of marijuana containing less than one percent THC.  But the marijuana you'll find at Florida dispensaries can only be used in oil or vapor form.  It cannot be smoked. 

Three months after starting the medication, Katelyn's seeing a change. She says she's no longer having seizures.  She is now weaning off one of her prescription anti-seizure medications. 

"The third day when I took my prescription, it was amazing. About two hours after I took the oil it was like a curtain drew open and something in my brain went like this. Oh my gosh. It made me kind of weepy," Beecher recalled. 

She's now able to spend more time outside in daylight.  

"The cannabis oil, oh, it just relaxes me. It calms me down, so I'm able to do a lot more.  I'm able to live a more normal life," she smiled.