As we close out our first PTSD Awareness Month issue, MedicateOH staffers are also celebrating an important anniversary. A year ago, two Ohio-based writers and medical cannabis advocates developed a concept and introduced MedicateOH at Cincinnati’s first medical marijuana expo.

MedicateOH Founding Partners Jim Goldschmidt and Gabrielle Dion Visca

Our Mission: Changing the Cannabis Stigma

At the time, we were developing content around reporting on Ohio’s medical marijuana industry as cannabis became legal at the beginning of January 2019. While we hoped to educate patients via the traditional digital magazine advertising model, we quickly found that this wouldn’t cut it in Ohio. The strict marketing rules imposed by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) on the cultivators and dispensaries made it nearly impossible to seek revenue via an ad model. Furthermore, Facebook’s arbitrary rules about reporting on legal medical marijuana impeded our ability to tell our stories in a way that would reach the patients who needed to have this education.

Throughout the first year of publication, MedicateOH continued to grow despite these challenges. We kicked off the year by hosting a live Facebook panel discussion about changing the stigma of cannabis, bringing Ohioans breaking news about the first dispensary openings at Terrasana and giving readers a sneak peak inside Ohio’s first marijuana cultivation facility at Buckeye Relief. We learned more about the process of getting a medical marijuana card from Dr. Steve Davis at Advocare Clinics in Canton and began analyzing figures and statistics from Ohio’s medical marijuana program as patient numbers began to grow and important data started to be collected.

Reporting on Women and Weed in Ohio

By last fall, we found our way to the heart of our publication with our series of feature stories called “Women Making Ohio Weed Work” series that highlighted some of the important women in Ohio who have been working hard to change cannabis’s stigma in the state. We featured Green Harvest Health’s Dr. Bridget Williams, Terrasana‘s Emily Ramach, Wendy Johnson with the Ohio Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, and vocal cannabis activist Mary Allegar in our first four of this ongoing series highlighting women who are contributing to furthering the education of cannabis patients in Ohio.

As we headed into winter, our staff was growing and we decided it was only right to build MedicateOH as a non-profit organization. We found the structure to be more intuitive to cannabis industry and it allowed us to escape the common publishing pitfall of being beholden to reporting on advertisers whose products we may or not support. It also allowed us to continue to be a third-party watchdog for Ohio patients. By fundraising instead of selling ads, we could develop content in a more meaningful way that was trustworthy and more authentically community-engaged. We built the infrastructure and signed with Community Shares of Mid Ohio as our fiscal sponsor and had our first executive board meeting in February to make things official.

MedicateOh Executive Director Gabrielle Dion Visca with board members Alex Perry, Heaven Lee Yoxheimer, and Jim Goldschmidt.

Crucial Reporting on Coronavirus, PTSD

It’s been a tough 2020 for all of us, to say the very least, but we’ve been covering so much of it on MedicateOH so that Ohioans who use medical marijuana can know what they need to do to safely and legally use their medicine during the pandemic. We continue to report on COVID-19’s impact on Ohioans as well as analyze the state’s policies on medical marijuana, such as why they don’t include autism as a qualifying condition for cannabis but do include PTSD. We also reported on one state representative’s efforts to end racism in Ohio partly through sweeping cannabis reform and decriminalization policy.

On a personal note, it was important to come back to PTSD as our first annual awareness month because it hits so close to home. In addition to being an Ohio medical marijuana patient cardholder for my spinal condition, I also qualify for and utilize cannabis in accordance with my doctor’s recommendation to treat my own post traumatic stress. After my mother’s 2017 death and a difficult divorce brought me back to Ohio from Nevada, having cannabis to help treat my PTSD has been likely life-saving. That is why it was so important to commit our first annual awareness issue to PTSD.

I believe that cannabis works in a very different way than other medications and substances that are meant to make you “high”. Cannabis is know to act upon the parts of the brain that makes you grateful. It often can be just what’s needed to pull a person dealing with trauma out of the darkness.

What I can tell you about opiates after having taken them for nearly 7 years is that they don’t allow you to be grateful. Opiates numb pain, they don’t allow you to appreciate pain in a way that helps you to find your way through it to a healthier and more productive life. Cannabis can. And the possibilities are endless when we start to compare notes on what’s helping us heal. When we better understand how our brains interact with cannabis, we can learn to heal—from the inside out.

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