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Christine Stenquist is a 42-year-old mother of four from Kaysville, Utah, who says using medical cannabis gave her her life back and that more patients, even in states where it is illegal, need to make themselves heard.
Christine spent two decades in excruciating pain, cycling through pain meds, trapped in the quiet darkness of her bedroom. In 2012 she tried medical cannabis and since that time has weaned off her pharmaceuticals and founded the Drug Policy Project of Utah. By coming out of the cannabis closet, she has led the change for medical cannabis legislation in the state.
Christine was raised in Miami by her father, a proud Vietnam Veteran and well-respected narcotics officer. Christine’s father participated in the second-biggest cocaine bust in Miami history and served on the force for 27 years, and it wasn’t until she received his blessing that she tried cannabis.
Christine has been suffering from severe and chronic migraines since the age of seven. In her twenties a tumor was discovered in her brain and in 1996 she was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma and underwent brain surgery to remove a portion of the tumor. Doctors could not remove the entire tumor for fear of causing nerve damage to her face and body. The tumor is benign and portions of it still sit on various nerves in her brain.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia came 15 months after brain surgery. She started having muscle spasms, vertigo, balance issues and unrelenting migraine pain. As her symptoms became increasingly severe, she could no longer hold a job, and so began over a decade in pain cycling through prescription drugs.
Finding Relief With Cannabis
“The first year I was using I would cry and battle with the fact that I am breaking the law, but at the same time I am feeling good,” she says. “I used to cry often when I used my medicine. I would lock myself in my room and seal it off so the kids couldn’t smell it. I didn’t know what it was going to do to them. There was little information out there for patients. I lived in ignorance and I felt like a criminal locked up, but was so elated that something was finally helping me. It was very conflicting dealing with that. I was always plagued with guilt and anxiety.”
As more time passed Christine weaned herself off more pharmaceuticals and today is pharmaceutical free and can walk, drive and be present in her familys’ lives. After regaining her health, Christine founded the Drug Policy Project of Utah and became the executive director of the organization.