Kevin Jackson, of Atlanta, Georgia and single father of two middle-schoolers, is a passionate and strong-willed cannabis advocate and medical marijuana patient living with multiple sclerosis. The Fresh Toast sits down with Kevin to discuss his day-to-day life, the different ways multiple sclerosis affects him, and how marijuana helps to relieve the pain. Kevin is out-spoken about his desire to continue the conversation about the importance of medical marijuana both from a research and political stance.
When did you first realize you had multiple sclerosis?
“Looking back on things in life, there were small indications but nothing major. I believe the street leaf I was using at the time was helping suppress the actual monster, which eventually reared its ugly face. The MS cluster attack put me down and I lost 80 percent of my muscle mass from the waist down. The upper body was still strong and because I had 13 years of football I had acquired lineman legs. Had I not had that I’d been permanently in a wheelchair.”
How has the cannabis helped?
“What the cannabis has helped is especially the pain, which is my biggest and worst issue. MS is called the snowflake disease because we are all unique like snowflakes. We all have different symptoms some more extreme than the other. I have found that the leaf has worked to an extent but when I found some people through the medical industry supplying marijuana oil here in Georgia I found it worked even better. There are particular strains that I’ve personally found helpful in dealing with my MS.
I found great benefits from the combination of CBD and THC. The THC helped with the pain, while the CBD worked to eliminate the euphoric elements, where you can function and have a quality of life and still be able to work. Cannabis helps me with pain, spasticity, muscle spasms and tightness. I do have pharma medicine that works only to an extent and when I throw in the natural it greatly increases the benefit. And once a month I’m given an infusion called Tysabri to help fight off my autoimmune system towards not attacking my body, my spinal cord. The doctors don’t see any harm with the combination of cannabis.”
How have you spread the word that cannabis oil can be used for pain as an alternative to opioids?
“I do try to reach out to those on different MS blogs with different symptoms and conditions and I recommend cannabis. Many of these people are in the state of California where it is legal, and I’m like ‘come on people, you have access to use cannabis and you’re not and we’re having to underground it here in Georgia.’ It comes out of research and education. People still have that reference to the 1970s Cheech and Chong era. It’s not like that these days. There’s still those crowds but there’s no comparison to the heroin and opioid epidemic. I saw in the Northeast a story about eight year olds being prescribed OxyContin. So let’s get them hooked young. We now have a periodic table of sorts for strains. Unfortunately, in Georgia you take what you can get sometimes. I know the education and research will take time understanding the different strains, but it’s important. What we do, myself and others like me, is take notes and keep track of what is and isn’t working for us. But it’s not a scientific study quite yet.
With medicine, it was the U.S. and the French fighting over who was going to get credit in the meantime people were dying. In this situation, people are suffering without access to the great benefits cannabis has to offer. There are children who are having 100 seizures a month and with medical marijuana that number decreases to maybe four a month and a better quality of life. It’s not just about a bunch of college kids at a frat party burning it up. Millenials are looking at it as medicine. I think the help of veterans with PTSD and the NFL is going to get medical marijuana approved as an alternative to pills and opioids. These are the folks that are going to help sway public and open minds to seeing more than what was taught to them growing up when it was considered taboo.”
What is your day-to-day living with MS?
“My day begins with stretching tremendously while I wait on the coffee to brew. If I stay in bed I get too stiff. I need to stay moving as much as possible. I
concentrate on every step I take. Going back and forth to the bathroom can be the most difficult. It’s the frustrating and ugly truth. My feet are what hurt most and the cannabis helps quite a bit. Normally I’ll do some drops of oil in the morning along with my B12 drops for energy. I keep a vape pen throughout the day when pain comes on, or when having an issue with spasticity, and muscle spasms to help relax and return to normal. Fortunately, I’m able to work from home on most days. Some days are better than others. One day I won’t be able to walk and it’s unpredictable. Often, I’ll have to cancel plans because I’m unable to walk, and the next day I’ll feel much better, and there’s no reason or answer to why I feel better. But, the cannabis helps things become more consistent and predictable.”
How do you stay motivated with such adversity?
“I’m glad I did a lot of things in life early, because I’m limited in what I can do today. But I continue to be outgoing. I have a close childhood friend who is paralyzed from waist down from a motorcycle accident. His attitude is great. He’s on the paraplegic Olympic ski team and a great support person at the Shepherd Center here in Atlanta, a not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord and brain injury. He encourages me. And our attitudes are let’s do it, let’s keep going, whereas some others would be timid and give up. You have to go out and live life. I didn’t ask for MS but I’m working to make the best of it. I’m here to do what I can for those who are struggling in similar ways.”