“Cannabis happened at the right time.”
When a patient of Ohio-based Dr. Bridget Cole Williams, MD admitted to her that she had been using cannabis and had found relief from her medical symptoms from it, the doctor’s first inclination was to discourage its use.
However, when she started looking into medical studies on cannabis for herself, Dr. Bridget’s mind began to change drastically about the plant’s medical potential. “Why didn’t I know any of this?” the Ohio-based physician asked herself after reading several credible studies, “I felt like I had gone into the dark web or something, but it was out there in plain view!”
Dr. Bridget’s new revelations on the potential of cannabis as medicine made her question a lot of things about what she had learned in her education.
She earned her Undergraduate Degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan, then went on to medical school at Michigan State’s College of Human Medicine. Dr. Bridget took a residency at the Cleveland Clinic, where she stayed for 12 years. During this time and up to this point, she had never learned anything about cannabis, other than seeing it negatively targeted during the War on Drugs. “I was taught to snub it,” she says of her experience with cannabis in her medical training.
Now open to new possibilities with cannabis that were being supported by compelling research, Dr. Bridget began observing her patient to understand how cannabis was affecting her healing journey. She learned about dosing and titration and was astounded to see the noticeable positive differences in her patient’s health.
“I Wanted to Be a Part of That”
“When cannabis became legal in Ohio, I knew I wanted to be a part of that,” said Dr. Bridget. She became a physician who certifies patients for medical cannabis cards but quickly became disillusioned with the way patients were being certified. In many cases, appointments were only five to seven minutes, with clinics often running ‘cards for cash’ ventures that didn’t put the patient first.
“I was already frustrated with the medical system; doing that seemed like a deeper hole,” Dr. Bridget says of what she was witnessing. She opened her own business to certify patients for their medical cannabis card in Ohio and Michigan, determined to “honor the patient”.
A Peek into Dr. Bridget’s Practice
Dr. Bridget explains that all appointments for a medical cannabis certification are a minimum of 30 minutes. “Every patient is different,” she acknowledges, explaining that in appointments, she reviews patients’ medical history, learns about their background of using cannabis, and goes through questions or anxieties they may have about cannabis medicine.
Reviewing the Endocannabinoid System and various consumption methods is also an integral part of an appointment with Dr. Bridget. Patients leave visits with Dr. Bridget with a Treatment Plan that they can take to their dispensary, and each patient receives a minimum of three follow-up appointments with her; more if the goal is to get people off other medications.
Patients that Want the Most Help
Interestingly, most of Dr. Bridget’s patients are over the age of 60, and most are living with chronic health issues. “I’ve created a practice where I see the patients who want the most help,” she says.
She explains that she often meets with families of her patients, and their general practitioner, and keeps education at the forefront of her approach. She says that the most common concern over trying medical patients is a fear of being “high” or unstable; however, as she continues to educate her patients about various approaches to dosing and consumption methods, she finds patients being surprised at how positive their experience with medical cannabis is.
Dr. Bridget told us that the most common thing people come to her for is pain, followed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), fibromyalgia, and cancer, with people often presenting with other co-morbid medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, or chronic stress.
“We are a really intense world right now and we are seeing the results of it,” she notes. “Cannabis happened at the right time. I say that because alcoholism would be exponential right now. People are going to figure out how to cope, and not everyone is doing yoga!” she adds. “Cannabis is one of the healthiest options you can get in terms of substance use.”
In her practice, Dr. Bridget reaches a certain population of families who are dealing with autism and epilepsy. “When I have children as my patients, it’s a family endeavor,” she says.
Chronicling the Healing Powers of Cannabis
Encouraged by what she was seeing in her patients, Dr. Bridget wanted to chronicle her experiences as a doctor who is certifying patients for medical cannabis. She began writing a book from her clinical perspective and it was close to publication, but for her, something “didn’t feel right.”
It was when she learned about the concept of anthologies written by women in the South where people came together to tell their stories that her own book concept changed. “I felt like we were in a moment in history that we needed to document,” she says. “We needed something for the churchgoer, politician, and policymakers to be able to see personal stories.”
“I believe in evidence-based medicine, but personal stories are research,” Dr. Bridget explains, “When you collect stories it turns from one story into data. People are more compelled to hear a story that touches them than pie charts. If you tell them a story, they’ll remember that. I wanted something that would have an impact long after it was written.”
And thus, Courage in Cannabis was born. Courage in Cannabis is a two-volume anthology of stories written by doctors, lawyers, patients, caregivers, entrepreneurs, and activists. Each volume features several unique stories that were written with the hope of inspiring others to explore cannabis medicine. The anthologies are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart, indicating that cannabis has come a long way and into the mainstream since its illegal status in most states just a couple of decades and even years ago.
Being part of the Courage in Cannabis community is a lifetime endeavor for those who lent their stories to the anthologies. “With the pride that these people had in writing their own stories, we created a community,” says Dr. Bridget. She tells us that the group has monthly meetings surrounding “how can we support one another?”, and notes that she is very protective of the group to ensure everyone’s comfort in sharing their experiences.
“We Need to Do Much Better in this Space”
As part of the BIPOCann community, Dr. Bridget hopes to see a future where we get away from the punitive nature of being involved in cannabis pre-legalization, giving people who have been persecuted for the plant opportunities to succeed in a newly legalized industry.
“I often will say that not only should people be removed from prison, [but also] given an option in the cannabis space,” says Dr. Bridget. “If they were the boss on the street, they should go to the head of the board room. There is a skill set there; how do we employ that now that they’re back home?” she posits.
“If you have paid your dues and if you want people to stay out of prison, take their skill sets and put them to good use,” she says. “Sometimes these are brilliant young people that simply haven’t had an opportunity. How do we put business sense, street sense, and the ability to run multiple employees to work? We need to do much better in this space.”
A Doctor on a Mission
From the perspective of BIPOCann, and many within the cannabis community at large, Dr. Bridget Cole Williams, MD is a hero within the space. Through her openness in sharing her story of overcoming stigma over cannabis by educating herself on the plant and its medical properties, she is an example to other physicians who may be curious about why so many people use cannabis medicinally.
Dr. Bridget certifies patients for medical cannabis in Ohio and Michigan, and soon the team who have shared their stories through Courage in Cannabis will embark on a speaking and book signing tour across the country. Learn more about Dr. Bridget Cole Williams, MD (who is also a Certified Life Coach) over at her website, and read more about Courage in Cannabis and watch for their book tour at the book’s website.