Medical marijuana user says 'It helped get my life back'

  • Written by Joe Boyle

jake soto photo 1-25

Photo by Joe Boyle

Jake Soto explains how his life used to be before being introduced to medicinal marijuana during a testimonial last week at the Worth Village Hall. Soto lined up the medications he used to take before he began using cannabis.

Jake Soto said the pain was unbearable and even morphine and other prescriptions were providing him with little relief.

“I had to figure something else out,” said Soto during an information testimonial last week at the Worth Village Hall. “We had to find out a different option because what I was doing wasn’t working. I decided to go with cannabis.”

Soto, 36, a resident of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, was the featured speaker during the meeting. He told the sparse crowd that injuries suffered working as a laborer created a painful existence. He has seven herniated discs in his back.

“I was taking lots of opioids and muscle relaxers,” Soto said. “I was on 320 milligrams of morphine a day. I was taking pills when I woke up and when I went to sleep.”

Soto was often irritable while dealing with his constant pain. His wife and two children often received the brunt of his frustration. Soto knew he had to do something. He then arranged a meeting with Brittany Kim, director of patient outreach for Windy City Cannabis, which has dispensaries not only in Worth but Homewood, Justice and Posen.

After holding discussions with Kim at the Justice dispensary, treatments were arranged for Soto ranging from edibles to extracts. Edibles include any food or beverage infused with cannabis, consumed daily. Extracts are potent concentrates derived from cannabis. They are popular due to their high THC/CBD content. They can be inhaled as smoke or vapor. Another method is dried cannabis flowers, which are most commonly consumed by inhalation of smoke or vapor

Soto uses a combination of these methods to mitigate the pain from his injuries. After just a brief period of taking medicinal marijuana, Soto noticed a significant difference. He felt much better physically and began to ween himself off a long list of medications he was taking daily.

“It helped get my life back,” Soto said.

Kim began last week’s session by stating she is pleased that Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell ordered Illinois officials this month to add intractable pain as a qualifying condition of medical marijuana, which could provide more access to the drug. The Illinois Department of Public Health had rejected intractable pain as a reason for medicinal marijuana treatment. Mitchell ordered the agency to add the condition.

“That certainly is good news,” said Kim, who has been working for Windy City Cannabis for two years. “But the (health department) is going to appeal. We will just have to wait and see.”

Kim provided people who attended the session with a history of cannabis use that dates back thousands of years. Cannabis was used for medicinal purposes through the 19th century, Kim said. However, it was in the 1930s that the Federal Bureau of Narcotics viewed marijuana as a menace. The propaganda film “Reefer Madness” tried to inform the public of not only the dangers but the subversive nature of marijuana.

After the 1960s, President Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971. However, the bipartisan Shafer Commission appointed by Nixon considered laws decriminalizing personal use of cannabis. But it was later denied by Nixon.

Kim added it was difficult to erase those stigmas surrounding medicinal marijuana until many residents became more accepting of its use to relieve pain. The Illinois Compassion Care Act passed in 2013 and that opened the door for dispensaries to open. The Worth facility opened up in January of 2016.

“We had to start the conversation,” Kim said. “It’s offering patients another option.”

Kim said that medicinal marijuana is not for everybody. While not a cure, the drug can offer relief for people who are suffering from a series of ailments, Kim added. She added that the Rauner administration has not been as receptive to medicinal marijuana. The pilot program for medicinal marijuana treatment has been extended in Illinois from this year to 2020.

She believes that dispensaries provide comfort to people who are suffering from various amount of pain and should be continued. She pointed to Soto as a living example.

Soto said that after six months, he had reduced his level of morphine daily intake to 90 milligrams. He only takes a couple of other medications due to medicinal marijuana, he said.

“I was back going to soccer games and baseball games to see my kids play,” Soto said about his 9-year-old and 6-year-old sons. “I’m much happier now. Taking all those opioids depressed me. With cannabis, you get your life back.”

Testimonials and Information on medicinal marijuana are provided at 6 p.m. the third Thursdays of the month at the Worth Village Hall, 7112 W. 111th St. More information can be obtained at