Lift brand ambassador Leslie Best on “coming out green”

Leslie Best takes us through her cannabis journey, and how the plant has touched—and healed—three generations of her family

I had always been a recreational smoker—since my teens—and I know a big group of adults who still smoke marijuana socially. While I would never deny my recreational use, I always kept it under my hat. This was out of respect for careers—I had a corporate job and my husband still has a great career as fire department captain. Plus, we have three kids. Just a few years ago I thought we could lose our children over cannabis: that was the frame of mind I had.

It all started with Mom

Things changed for me in 2015. My mother was dying. She wanted to get off all her medications for the time she had left. Though I had no real proof, I had an inkling that our family doctor was supportive of medical cannabis. I said, “Why don’t you ask him about it? You’re palliative.” She had terrible irritable bowel syndrome and I suggested it could help.

Leslie Best and Piper Best, Lift Faces of Cannnabis

My mother was a Girl Guide leader for 30 years and had never touched marijuana in her life. But she was so brave! She went in and asked our doctor, and it turns out he was very supportive. After doing some research into her condition and to be sure it was safe (she had pulmonary fibrosis), he gave her a prescription and told her to get a vaporizer. This shocked me as he’s been our doctor for 40 years. You can never make assumptions.

I learned to advocate for myself—and my kids

Inspired by my mother’s bravery, I summoned the courage to ask for my own prescription. I’ve always had interstitial cystitis, a chronic and painful bladder disease that has been treated with prescription cannabis in the U.S. for years. I said to myself: “If Mom can do it, then Jesus Murphy! I’m going in.”

I’ve never asked for pain pills for my condition—ever. I just drank a lot of water, left my corporate career and started teaching yoga. But when I went in to see our doctor, he said, “Absolutely you’re a candidate.”

Mom and I navigated our prescriptions together and learned more and more about medical cannabis. That same year, all hell broke loose with two of my children. They developed sudden verbal and motor tics—especially in my youngest. She was diagnosed with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections, or PANDAS. Immediately I searched online to see how cannabidiol (CBD)—a cannabinoid with minimal side effects—could help. At that time, cannabis in oil form wasn't available legally through a licensed producer. Our choices were daily antibiotics and diuretics, which I could not do to her. Once oils became available and she started to have regular flares after starting school full time in the fall, I was able to convince our pediatrician to try CBD on her, and it worked like a charm! She can now go to school and play with other kids without dealing with the tics and stutters that come with PANDAS.

Let’s open the conversation

People have made all sorts of assumptions about me: that I’m a classic stoner, that I don’t work (even though I own my own business). But this has never bothered me. The concern I have is the stigma that follows seniors and kids. I want to help end this stigma for people who are afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to upset their friends and family, or they don’t even know where to look for answers.

So there it is. I’ve gone full circle, from private recreational smoker to open advocate and canna-mom. I’ve come out green, as they say, and even went to Parliament last May to advocate for patients’ rights to accessibility and affordability.

My advice to others is to just keep asking questions, and don’t be afraid to talk about cannabis. Just the other day I ended up in conversation with a guy in a grocery store, telling him I make smoothies for my kids who suffer from neurological inflammation. He then said, “You know what you should give them? CBD.”

That was awesome—times truly are changing.

- By Leslie Best, as told to Devon Scoble

Leslie Best is Lift’s May brand ambassador. She and her daughter Piper star in our Faces of Cannabis campaign, which celebrates the diversity of the cannabis community. Want to join them? Post your story and a photo of yourself on social media with the hashtag #facesofcannabis for a chance to win a Pax 3 vaporizer, and be sure to join us at the Toronto Lift Cannabis Expo this May 26 – 28.

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