The Pot Treatment
written by becky hoag
photographed by damon holland
Scott McClintock, 19, was fed up. He was taking Humira…and then several other medications to deal with the side effects of that medication. He couldn’t focus on his studies because he was constantly feeling under the weather. He ended up living at home on medical leave, two hours away from the liberal arts college he attended.
When McClintock went to the hospital for a checkup one day, he expressed his frustration to one of his doctors. She looked at him and sighed. She knew it was difficult for him. Crohn’s disease is permanent. The inflammatory bowel disease inflames the lining of the digestive tract causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss, among other symptoms.
“She said, ‘I feel for you,’” McClintock recalled. “’There’s no cure for this and the best you can do right now is maintain a generally positive outlook on life, so you can maintain a healthy lifestyle. Maintain a nutritious diet.”
But then his doctor hesitantly said something McClintock hadn’t heard before. She recommended trying marijuana to ease symptoms like his nausea and painful bowel movements. But there was a catch — They were in Richmond, Virginia, where marijuana use of any kind is illegal.
McClintock couldn’t shake the idea that there might be something out there that could help improve his quality of life. Not too long after the visit to the doctor, he and some friends decided to give marijuana a try. They sat in the dark on one of their porches, taking hits out of a makeshift apple pipe.
“I was laughing for like four-and-a-half hours with my friends and my brothers,” McClintock said. “I was just grazing on all sorts of snacks.”
It’s normal for stoned people to get the munchies, but to McClintock, it was a game changer.
“I was not even in the state of mind where I had to worry about any sort of uncomfortable feeling.”
He could now eat without pain, something that many people would take for granted. Excited, McClintock began lighting up more often and his use for synthetic medications significantly decreased.
“From 19 to 20 I was a stoner,” McClintock said. “From 20 to 21 I did everything I possibly could to research it, because from 20 to 21 I was having some more flair-ups and symptoms related to Crohn’s that were popping up again.”
It was very difficult for him to learn which strains would work the best, though, because Virginia was void of dispensaries — where he could explore the effects of different strains. In Virginia, marijuana is sold in black-market fashion. If McClintock wanted the product, he just got what was available. He became good at recognizing different strands through their distinct scents and looks.
Around this time, Washington and Colorado were pushing to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational use. Soon, Oregon joined the movement. But in Virginia, the law wasn’t budging. One day, an anonymous tipper told the police about McClintock. He was arrested and his cannabis was confiscated.
“I was convinced that the only way I could continue to learn about how [marijuana] will impact me was to go west; there’s no other choice,” McClintock said.
But first he had to wait to get his license back, which was suspended for six months. He also had to attend mandatory drug counseling and take drug testing for a year. The process cost him around $8,000 and forced him to return to his previous medications for relief. He quit his job and left school to avoid a judicial hearing.
Throughout this process, he and his longtime girlfriend Katie House hoped to transfer to the University of Oregon. They had heard positive things about UO from the close-knit ducks community in Richmond and the mentality of the west coast appealed to them.
Once McClintock got the green light from Virginia’s courts, he and House both applied to UO. House got in; McClintock initially did not.
“Oregon ended up losing some of my paperwork in the process, so I ended up settling for Washington State in the meantime,” McClintock said.
Still, the two drove across the country to their new schools. They went long distance for a bit until UO notified McClintock that they found his information and he was, in fact, accepted.
“I was like, ‘Hell yeah! I’m coming in!’”
McClintock is now 25 and trying to gain residency as he finishes his first part-time term at UO. He’s currently an economics major, but is still exploring different options. In the meantime, McClintock is now free to use and learn about marijuana as he pleases. He plans to get his medical card when he becomes a state resident.
“I think a lot about me learning about this plant is to future educate the world that [marijuana] is not as bad as it could be and we could do a lot of good here,” McClintock said.
He has become a good example of what cannabis can do too. By ingesting cannabis three to four times a day – usually through smoking a bowl – McClintock has been able to go off synthetic medications for over six months. He says the only caveat he has is with his diet.
“I can get a little risky with my diet choices because consequently, when you consume cannabis, you feel like you can eat anything,” McClintock said. “That’s good and bad. Good in the sense that I feel like I have this control over my diet and lifestyle, but bad because there’s an after effect.”
Meaning, if he eats something bad, like acidic foods, he might not feel well afterwards. But he’s working on it, and now feels well enough to attend school every day and live a better quality of life.
“I personally feel we have found a natural medicine that would eliminate a lot of problems in society that I have also overcome myself,” McClintock said.