Women are the biggest users of medical marijuana (MMJ). But the industry is still dominated by men. In this series, MedicateOH is talking with women in the industry about their roles, experiences, and predictions for the future of MMJ in Ohio. This week, we spoke with Dr. Bridget Williams, owner of Green Harvest Health, an education and wellness shop near Columbus.

Dr. Bridget Williams

Doctor Bridget Williams served as a family physician for nearly 20 years. During that time, she noticed that many of her patients had similar complaints. “They were frustrated with the way that traditional medicine was going,” she said. “They were frustrated with, you come in for a problem, there’s a pill. You have a problem with your pill? We give you a pill for the side effects of the last pill.”

As her patients started asking for ways to break the cycle, Williams began considering other options. “It really invoked this desire to help people that wanted to live differently and actually get off of their medications,” she said. 

Williams began working with interested patients on a holistic approach to managing their symptoms, focusing on diet and stress reduction. “Little by little, they were getting off of their medication,” she said. When MMJ came to Ohio, Williams took the opportunity to integrate it into her medical practice, viewing it as a treatment that correlated with patients’ desires to have fewer prescriptions, and a treatment plan they had more control over. 

She founded Green Harvest Health in Pickerington, OH, as a health and wellness space. In addition to providing MMJ cards, Williams’ business partners at Green Harvest offer wellness coaching, massage and aromatherapy, and instruction on preparing and using cannabis, CBD, and THC edibles. “It’s a collaborative. We all have our individual small businesses but we also work together quite a bit,” she explained. “We definitely approach cannabis in a totally different way. It’s so much more education focused, it’s so much more wellness focused by having the coaching involved.” 

“People are pleasantly surprised by how their physicians have responded.” 

-DR. BRIDGET WILLIAMS

Williams encourages her patients to talk to their primary care physicians about using MMJ. She believes these conversations can help legitimize and destigmatize MMJ for both patients and doctors. “It changes the way people look at it,” she said. “People are pleasantly surprised by how their physicians have responded.” 

She also noted that doctors can be put in a tight spot by healthcare networks that may not recognize or approve of MMJ use. Therefore, she often advises patients to broach MMJ use as a personal question, such as, “Can you share your personal views on medical cannabis?” This communicates patient interest to doctors and can be an easier way to begin the conversation.

Even in this rapidly changing industry, Williams said that stigma still surrounds cannabis use. Recognizing it as legitimate medicine has given her clients collective relief. She said that many of her patients had previously used cannabis to self-medicate. The MMJ card serves as legal proof that, in Williams’ words, “they’re not that person sitting on the couch getting high.” In fact, the majority of Williams’ patients suffer from chronic pain, and are over 55 years old. She said they come from all walks of life, and include school teachers and church members–a far cry from the stereotypical cannabis user.  

As her patients continue to benefit from treatment, Williams shared her hopes for the future of the industry, including more traditional medical acceptance, and better education for patients and doctors. Wider recognition of MMJ as legitimate medicine and growing acceptance of its treatment can, hopefully, help lead more patients to better outcomes. 

Dr. Williams works with patients at Green Harvest Health near Columbus (greenharvest.health), and The Relaxation Place in Broadview Heights (relaxationplaceinc.com). 

Linda Baird is a writer and educator living in Columbus, Ohio. She is a regular contributor to 614 Magazine, as well as a consultant for non-profit organizations.