Let’s Talk About Marijuana

Brad Dell avatar

by Brad Dell |

Share this article:

Share article via email

(Courtesy of Shelby Dell)

Mom and I had flown to Denver to meet a specialist and strategize treatment for my 
nontuberculous mycobacterium. Part of the clinic visit concerned treating my barren appetite and nonstop nausea. We’d tried nearly every anti-nausea prescription by then, and nothing did the trick. My daily “meals” were composed of one or two nibbles. Being in the “Mile High City,” the conversation naturally turned to cannabis.

Doctor: “Marijuana’s legal here, ya’ know. Might as well try it while in town. Do edibles, of course.” Fun fact: Smoking isn’t recommended for those with lung disease.

I was adamantly against any use of the ol’ devil’s lettuce despite being a 21-year-old in college. My pastor from Hawaiʻi floated in my vision, saying his oft-repeated phrase, “Eh, brah. Stay off da weed!” while miming holding a joint.

Mom and I glanced at each other and awkwardly chuckled, “Pahaha … Nah …”

Flash forward two hours, and we’re in a legal marijuana dispensary that’s seemingly co-run by Tommy Chong and Willy Wonka. Cannabis was infused into every treat imaginable: chocolate, lollipops, cookies, brownies, Jolly Ranchers. Luckily, my CF-related diabetes hadn’t kicked in by that time.

Join the Cystic Fibrosis News Today forums: an online community especially for patients with CF.

I could feel good about gummy bears. Cute bears. Innocent, pure. “Pop maybe, like, two,” the blond girl at the cashier’s counter said. She’d just finished telling us about how she regularly smuggled marijuana flowers onto airplanes, which tainted my attempts to focus on this venture being a perfectly legal experience.

We left the store with a pill canister of attractively colored gummies — teal, emerald, violet (purple always sounds more attractive as violet, no?). I popped two, prayed for forgiveness, and waited 30 minutes. Nothing. I popped two more. Then two more. See, being a goody two-shoes, I regularly filtered out conversations about weed — including, perhaps, conversations about edible marijuana taking a couple of hours to work.

Oh, it hit me, all right. We walked past an Italian restaurant after a two-hour movie. The whiff of Jupiter’s ambrosia hit me like a sweet, beautiful sledgehammer: pasta. I ate two loaves of bread, a plate of fried mozzarella, salad, and a gigantic bowl of baked ziti, and washed it down with four glasses of strawberry lemonade (cotton mouth is real, y’all).

My airways and sinuses shot wide open for the first time in years, and my inflammation pain “magically” disappeared. I also coughed up a lot of mucus. And my brain didn’t turn into overcooked oatmeal like I’d always imagined would happen. It was my first time meeting Mary Jane, and she was … pleasant. I walked back to my hotel grinning, drew a piping hot bath, and faded into a food coma in the tub.

Later, I tried CBD products. CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis — fancy talk for “CBD doesn’t make you stoned.” While it didn’t work as well on my appetite, it did help with opening my airways, reducing pain, and easing my nausea. I even went on a hike while on supplemental oxygen. But despite not having psychoactive properties, CBD is difficult to obtain outside of states without legal dispensaries.

Cannabis was magic for my CF symptoms. But I wasn’t exactly dying to try more of it (because I wasn’t yet dying). But when I was dying two years later, my doctors recommended trying to get more of it. Turns out, Hawaiʻi (where I lived) isn’t a cannabis paradise, despite being the first state to legalize medical marijuana. At the time (it has now changed), there were no dispensaries and you could only legally obtain marijuana if you grew your own using seeds provided by the government. I lived with my family because of my frail state, and because my dad received federal retirement benefits, growing it at home was “complicated, as marijuana is federally illegal. So, I never again had it.

In intense pain, throwing up numerous times a day, and having multiple panic attacks every day, it was devastating news. It took me actively dying to realize what all the fuss was about when it came to the fight to legalize marijuana for those who were suffering. What was I able to receive for relief? Benzodiazepines, morphine, fentanyl. Things that are highly-addictive and can ruin lives. Meanwhile, cannabis was right out of reach.

I’m not going to get into the hazy past of marijuana’s relationship with the U.S. government. What I will get into is the future: We need research into the effects of cannabis on cystic fibrosis. Can its anti-inflammatory effects help us? Can its pain-relieving effects help us? Can its bronchodilating effects help us? Can its appetite-stimulating and nausea-suppressing effects help us? Can its mental health effects help us?

I don’t know for certain that cannabis could help CF patients in big ways, though I’ve encountered plenty of firsthand and secondhand anecdotal evidence to suggest that. And marijuana isn’t free of downsides. (Is any medication, though?) What I’m saying is, we need to ask and get answers. Let’s push for research into the potential that cannabis could dull the intensity of our destructive disease.


Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


J. A. avatar

J. A.

Having read this on Valentine's Day, I found it fitting to express my love for my longest relationship I've ever had, and it is with medical marijuana. Having CF myself, there is nothing I have found that has benefited me more than eating marijuana. Luckily, I do live in Colorado, and a part of the reason I will never leave is because of my amazing health care team and the ability to get safe, pain relieving, appetite stimulating products. With all of the growing attraction of the benefits of edibles being accessible, I have done years of research and gentle medicating to help aid in my aging and progressive cf body. I am hopeful that there will be research funded in this field, because first hand I have seen and experienced the benefits of such an amazing plant. CBD are non-euphoric, meaning it doesn't "get you high" and CBD are legal in all 50 states as long as there is no THC. I fully support doing research to see if the CBD properties can help your symptoms, or better your life.

g.p. avatar


I found out I had cf when I stopped smoking marijuana. I started when I moved to Miami and when I decided that it's time to stop and when I did I got really sick. Family members of mine had cf and I never even knew I had it until I got my sweat test when I was done smoking. Smoking only helped me and did not damage my lungs but now that I can go to dispensaries, there are healthier ways to consume. I am only 16 years old and I get my med card in a few days! God bless the marijuana Gods.

John Thomas avatar

John Thomas

I am in my mid 20s with cystic fibrosis and I found that edibles help with many aspects of the illness. Appetite is a big one, but the biggest benefit for me is reducing anxiety and depression. I had an increase in lung function after starting to use cannabis edibles but I'm not sure if it was related or not. I like to consume a bit of cannabis after the day is over, chow down, and take my mind off of the negative thoughts attached to CF. A little bit goes a long way when it comes to edibles and make sure you don't over do it.

Christina avatar


Hey Brad! Could you tell me a bit more about your experience with CBD? Did you take straight oil? What was your dosage, how many times a day, and what differences did you experience? I've been taking CBD capsules but haven't found much benefit yet, although I may just need a higher dose. Thanks for any information you're able to share!

Christina avatar


Hey Brad,
Would you mind sharing what form of CBD you were taking, what dosage, and how many times per day? What benefits did you get form it? I was using CBD capsules for a while but I'm trying to figure out if they helped at all, if I need a higher dose, etc.


Douglas Meuth avatar

Douglas Meuth

Hey Brad,
34 m cf.
Spent 100 days in the hospital last year, so far 45 this one. Any info you have on CF and cannabis would be amazing.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

A Conversation With Rare Disease Advocates

Your CF Community

Visit the Cystic Fibrosis News Today forums to connect with others in the CF community.