Glenda M. of Jacksonville, FL
After she ditched pain meds for medical cannabis, Glenda M. of Jacksonville, FL is helping educate her community about healing
The first question I ask Glenda as we sit down to talk about her medical cannabis story is about the fiberglass cast on her wrist.
She responds with a few boxing moves and pumps her fist in the air.
“Oh, this isn’t the reason I use medical cannabis, though it’s been a real pain,” she says, laughing at my confusion.
Turns out, she tripped and fell in the gravel parking lot at a recent Rolling Stones concert. “I rolled in the stones, literally!” she giggles.
The joke elicits more laughs from the waiting room at Harvest House of Cannabis dispensary in Jacksonville, FL, where Glenda is a welcome regular. She greets everyone with hugs, including me, even though we just met.
“I always give out hugs here,” she explains. “This is the place where I get my healing, so I always pass along a little love so these folks can give it to the next person, so the healing can continue.”
Suddenly, Glenda’s enchanting gap-toothed grin disappears and she becomes serious. “I want to show you something.”
She scrolls through her phone and clicks on a photo. “That’s me.”
Blinking wildly, I try to reconcile the person on the screen with the bubbly, petite woman sitting in front of me.
“Shocking, right?” she says, eyes widening. “That was 2014, and I was 321 pounds and taking so much narcotic pain medicine to get by — 60 to 90 morphine a month orally, and I was being prescribed 180 Percocet a month.”
In 2006, Glenda was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and sarcoidosis, an excruciating inflammatory condition affecting the lungs and lymph nodes. Comedian Bernie Mac reportedly died from complications of the disease, as did NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White. In Glenda’s case, the disease and side effects from the pain meds compounded her depression and weight gain, keeping her in a dysfunctional cycle.
“For eight years, I kept getting worse. It got so I could barely move. Every day I would crawl down the hallway to look out the front door and pull myself up so my son could see me when he got off the school bus,” she recalls, shaking her head.
Finally, in 2014, she found the courage and will to make a change. She decided to move from rural Moultrie, GA back to her hometown of Jacksonville to undergo gastric bypass surgery and take control of her health.
“I decided I was tired of not living. I told my doctors, I no longer want these meds, you have to find another way,” she says.
As her body transformed from the weight loss surgery, she found a pain management doctor who helped her formulate a plan that reduced her to 20 Percocet a month and completely eliminated morphine. She also began finding relief in cannabis, though Florida had not yet legalized medical cannabis to bring forth more options for consumption.
“At first, I only had street marijuana, and I smoked like every else, in tobacco wraps. But because of my condition, I developed ulcers in my esophagus and could not get food, nutrients or water,” she says with tears in her eyes as she describes her battle to gain control of her health.
“I dropped to 98 pounds. They had to go in three times to surgically open up my throat so I could eat.”
During this time Glenda had reconnected with her high school sweetheart, Johnny, who grew up a few blocks from her in Jacksonville’s historic Durkeville neighborhood. They married in 2014, and when Glenda received her medical marijuana card in 2018, it was Johnny who went online to study decarbing tutorials and how to make edibles and oils.
Their homemade medicines had an immediate effect: Glenda’s throat began to heal, her nausea subsided, and she began to gain weight. In combination with cannabis and a regimen of bitterleaf tea from Africa and healthy food, Glenda recovered her health and found a new creative passion.
“All of our cooking oil is infused, and we make our own wines and tinctures. I even make my own creams for my skin. Every butter in my house has cannabis — you better be grown up in here!” she laughs.
She became a regular customer at Harvest soon when it opened in the spring of 2019, after she told her doctor that she was unhappy with the service at another dispensary.
“Everyone here is so kind and knowledgeable, and I always leave feeling like I got the most for my buck,” she says. “That’s why I always come with hugs!”
Glenda recently earned a Culinary Arts certificate from the Clara White Mission, and now holds gatherings in her home to educate others in the community about the benefits of cannabis.
“There are so many people who qualify for their medical cannabis cards, but they’re afraid that means they’ll be walking around smelling like a blunt,” she says. “They don’t understand yet that they can use the topical creams or vaporize patches or put it in their food. I want to do my part to help.”
Along with her classes, raising her 15 year-old son and attending rock concerts, Glenda also helps Johnny run LACES, a non-profit that promotes HIV awareness, youth education and bullying prevention. Though the cast will come off soon, she still uses a walker sometimes, and has to take an occasional Percocet from time to time to mitigate her chronic fibromyalgia and sarcoidosis. But Glenda touts cannabis as her main medicine for life and reports that even her pain management doctor is pro-medical cannabis.
“It is so empowering to have this continuum of care, to participate in my own health, to become happier and healthier every day,” she says, the gap-toothed smile returning.
“It’s like the military. I used to feel like the lowly private, other people telling me what to do. Now I’m the five star general.”