Cristina's
Story

Cristina Montoya

Registered Dietician
Certified Cannabis Educator
Medical Cannabis Patient

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I was born and raised in Colombia at the height of the drug cartel wars and the Pablo Escobar era in Medellin. By the mid-80s, approximately 60% of the marijuana available in the U.S came from Colombia.

 

This horrific war claimed many lives, including my father, who was on the illegal side of the cannabis industry. I grew up with a repulsion for the cannabis plant, even though our native tribes have been using it for medicinal purposes for generations. In 2003, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions, which brought in unbearable and debilitating pain. In 2007, when I moved to Canada, my husband suggested medical cannabis, and I almost filed for divorce (not even kidding). I was ready to pack my bags and head back to Colombia.

In 2015, the generalized pain caused by fibromyalgia led me to change my views on cannabis. I added medical cannabis to my pain and anti-inflammatory toolkit box. I became more passionate about it after giving birth to my son in 2019. My rheumatologist and family doctor prescribed Oxycontin (a type of opioid) to put out the fire caused by a horrible postpartum Rheumatoid Arthritis flare-up and the C-section incision.

I refused narcotics altogether due to the unpleasant side effects (i.e. nausea, decreased appetite, drowsiness, brain fog, constipation, headache, and even anxiety). Sadly, there were no other options offered to treat my chronic pain. Since I could not breastfeed my boy after two weeks, I was able to resume my medical cannabis therapy with a physician's assistance from the Canadian Cannabis Clinics and later on with the Apollo Medical Clinics' support.

I wanted to know more about this ancient plant demonized for almost a century, but a game-changer in managing my own chronic pain and anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic presented the opportunity to complete online evidence-based programs on cannabis sciences. I graduated as a Holistic Cannabis Practitioner with the Holistic Cannabis Academy from the U.S, recognized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics but unrecognized by Dietitians of Canada and our regulatory bodies across Canada. I also obtained the Canadian Cannabis Educator Certificate through The Michener Institute of Education at the University Health Network. In the Summer of 2020, along with a wonderful group of women with experience in cannabis education, I joined the founding members of EduCanNation: A Cannabis Education Non-Profit Organization, whose mission is providing the highest standard of responsible cannabis education across the nation. I am currently reviewing the new Handbook of Cannabis for Clinicians: Principles and Practice by the renowned Dr. Dursin Sulak, D.O., from Healer.com.


 

My cannabis journey has hit a few roadblocks. Allied Health Care Providers in Canada, including Registered Dietitians, are limited to the type of guidance they can provide to the public. Only physicians and nurse practitioners can write a medical document, but often they cannot offer comprehensive and personalized cannabis education due to time constraints, industry demands, or other reasons. In 2020, a survey of 1000 medical cannabis patients conducted by Medical Cannabis Cannada found that "83% of patients felt stigma in the medical system regarding cannabis use, and 57% found it hard to find a healthcare provider to speak to about their medical cannabis use."
 

We are all learning along the way, and I am building a knowledge framework that will hopefully allow me to be more involved in this emerging field of health education. I continue to advocate for expanding the Dietitian's role in amplifying the benefits of medical cannabis in the management of chronic pain, fatigue, sleep, and relaxation.

 

Looking forward to re-connecting with all of you

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