Laurel woman’s health depends on medical marijuana

By: 
KATHLEEN GILLULY
Outlook managing editor
Kristie Miller

Kristie Miller depends on her medication to stay on top of numerous health issues. When the 31-year-old Laurel woman was just 20, she had a debilitating stroke. Just over a decade later, Miller’s doctors have found lesions on her brain that may contribute to her on-going seizures and near constant tremors. She also has serious mobility issues and vision problems that can affect her ability to walk or drive.

“The doctors are thinking MS because of the lesions, but haven’t made a determination yet,’ she said. ”But I have chronic pain, migraines that mimic strokes, digestion and sleep problems.”

Miller says she needs medical marijuana for all those issues, and she has tried just about everything else.

“I was not a user before my stroke,” she said. “I was married to a cop at the time. He finally suggested I try something else because the pharmaceuticals made me sicker.” Some of the drugs triggered seizures and the narcotics caused her to wake up vomiting. 

“After I got a [medical marijuana] card I was able to get off disability and work,” Miller said, relating how marijuana has impacted her life. “I want to be productive.”

The 31-year-old spent years on disability because she had no choice. Although she has worked recently, her disabilities interfere with the jobs she is able to perform and affect her attendance when she has flare ups. 

Miller and her mother live together, but she doesn’t like having to depend on her mom for rides when she is unable to drive. She attended the June 6, public hearing before the Laurel City Council to learn if the marijuana dispensary she patronizes was going to be able to set up shop in Laurel. The council voted 2-5 against a variance that would have allowed Montana Advanced Caregivers to operate from a building on S. Washington Ave.

“It would be preferable to be able to go to a local dispensary,” she said. “They [MAC] are really compassionate and contribute to their community.” Miller noted that Jason Miller and Richard Abromeit, co-owners of the Billings-based dispensary, truly care for their patients including veterans, and are involved citizens.

“It would be beneficial for Laurel to have them here,” she said, “not just for me, but for other people who can’t travel.”

Miller has been using medical marijuana for six years, including the specialty product Charlotte’s Web, which doesn’t contain THC and is high in CBD or cannabidiol. Both are active components of marijuana, but only THC produces the high that many associate with marijuana. CBD has been promoted for children with epilepsy and other conditions and is now legal in all 50 states.

“I took a puff of Charlotte’s Web from a vaporizer and within minutes my tremors had almost stopped,” Miller said.  

MAC planned to sell Charlotte’s Web in Laurel, among their locally-grown and produced items, according to Smith, who told the Outlook that the Colorado company that produces the CBD products require it be sold out of a storefront if not purchased from the company directly. 

MAC’s owners haven’t given up plans to come to Laurel.

“We definitely plan to appeal,” Smith said. Miller hopes any appeal of the city council’s vote will be successful.

“I really don’t want to put myself out there because I already have faced discrimination for using marijuana products,” she said, “but it’s my health and I’m tired of feeling like a criminal. I’ve exhausted the pharmaceuticals available to me.”

Miller said she couldn’t believe that councilors cited concerns about parking at MAC’s proposed location. She’s worked on Main St. and said they should focus efforts to fix parking problems downtown. But mainly she just hopes to be able to get her medicine locally.

“We’ll keep fighting,” she said. “There is room for change here.”

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