Patients of Pot

Stories of medical marijuana users.  

In the words of a certain old man in a certain old town, getting by the best way he can, “The mountains and rivers of Montana cause pain, but they also help ease pain, too.” There are plenty of other ways that folks get by, and one of them is medical marijuana—a remedy somewhat less conventional, but just as natural, and every bit as effective. Here are two tales among many.

Aching Angler
Tim started fly fishing the streams and rivers of Montana in 1965. “We used caddisflies,” he says, “with worms on the end.” This angling pioneer remembers when the Gallatin near Big Sky was remote and dangerous: “Back in 1971, a moose charged me while I was fishing Porcupine Creek; I lost my best rod while running for my life. In fact,” he adds with a chuckle, “the Gallatin River and its tributaries have taken many of my favorite possessions over the years—including my wife!” Tim turns 75 this fall, and his weathered visage tells the story of a man who has seen it all. 

Tim loads up his pontoon boat in the darkness of a chilly fall morning. But it’s not because he’s an early riser. “You have to get to the put-in before the guides and college kids ruin the river!” he explains. Tim says that it’s tough to fish any of the local streams in peace “without all the cigar smoke” due to the overcrowding of Bozeman. He usually drives an hour or two away from his cabin just north of town to escape the “human hatches” and find the kind of water that reminds him of his youth.

After a long day of floating and fishing all by himself, Tim heads back to his home and can’t wait to tie flies. “The fun doesn’t stop when you leave the river,” he says, smiling like a child. Tim loves experimenting with new designs. He shows off his latest invention, “the Mighty Mickey,” which resembles a tiny mouse with red eyes and big ears. “This fly catches ten-pound trout in the Missouri!” he declares.

Tim casually grabs a vape pen filled with medical marijuana oil while he delicately wraps hackle around hook. “The arthritis in my knees and elbows make me feel like the Tin-Man from the Wizard of Oz,” he explains. Tim was once addicted to doctor-prescribed Codeine, taking up to ten pills a day. He credits medical marijuana for weaning him off “Captain Cody.”

Painless Powder
Bob has skiedBridger Bowl for over five decades: “Since the beginning,” he says. Through the years, the Bridger Mountains and the fading fields that surround them have undergone many changes, but Bob still calls Bozeman home. Each weekday in winter—there are “too many line-fights, too much anxiety” on the weekends—Bob heads to the hill at 9am and enjoys a full day (with four breaks) of what he considers the best skiing in America. 

Bob waves his hands in the air—he communicates more through his body language than with his voice. “The powder days in the ’70s were magical! If only our skis had been fat back then!” At the age of 75, Bob doesn’t like jumps, he stays away from cliffs, and knows he can't charge the Ridge like he used to. Besides, he says with a sigh, “they had different names and skied better in the olden days.” Bob still has fun, though, and that’s all that matters.

Bob usually pushes himself too hard—aching with more than the nostalgia of days long past—and when the chairlifts close at 4pm, he is left with staggering knee pain that “would hurt even the fiercest Yellowstone grizzly.” When he gets home, he “throws a couple logs in the stove,” sits in his ’70s-era recliner, and turns on the tube. First it’s PBS, then the local news, and then Jeopardy. Bob eats something frozen from his ancient yellow refrigerator and smokes medical marijuana from what looks like sink piping. “It’s the only thing that helps ease the pain,” he explains; he refuses to take prescription painkillers because “they make you sleep, they make you constipated, and they take all your money.”

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