California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana back in 1996. Now, 20 states have it legalized and over two million people in the United States are card holders.
But why is the drug becoming a popular form of treatment?
"I was on opiates, I was on barbiturates, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicationâ?|all I was doing was eating pills four times a day, literally a handful everyday," said Joy Williams of her life two years ago.
"I went to the doctor and I asked him, â??I'm 48 taking 42 pills a day. How many pills will I be taking when I turn 50?â??"
Joy Williams, a Gladstone resident, said medical marijuana saved her life.
On top of the medications, she weighed 409 pounds and spent 75 percent of her time in bed.
"My funeral plans have already been made," Williams said. "I didn't think I would live to see 50 and I turned 50 December 24th."
Williams began taking medication when she was 12 for multiple back and neck issues. In addition, she had kidney, liver and heart problems caused by all the medications. Now the 4'11" grandma says that lifestyle is a thing of the past, and her future is brighter than ever thanks to medical marijuana.
"It not only drastically saved my life and gave me my life, it gave my granddaughter her nana, it gave my son a mother," Williams said.
Williamsâ?? son told her to consider medical marijuana in May of 2012.
"I was furious," Williams admitted. "To me, growing up, marijuana was like heroine; you do one, you're going to do the other."
But after months of research, she decided to give it a try. The Gladstone woman began treatment in October 2012. In the process she also became an organic vegan.
"If I wasn't going to put the chemical medications into my body, why was I putting the chemical foods into my body?"
Williams said "within 30 days" her liver and kidneys were "functioning at a normal level."
She also lost 270 pounds and cured her Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Williams says she is now the healthiest she's ever been, doing things she never thought possible.
"I got to play this summer with my grand daughter," the grandmother said proudly. "I could never do that before with a walker and a cane."
She even completed a high ropes course in September 2013.
"I thought I was going to be cremated," Williams said. "I have a whole new life."
"Iâ??ve been asking friends, â??If you were given 35 years to live, what would you do?â??"
Now Williams said the only problem she has is getting too cold. But she's got a cure for that, too. Sheâ??s selling her home and moving to sunny Arizona.
A Marquette resident, Michael Marthaler, uses medicinal marijuana for his cerebral palsy and scoliosis. The two issues often cause severe muscle spasms that he says are extremely painful.
"Medicinal marijuana reduces the number of spasms that I have and then it relieves the pain that is associated with them," explained Marthaler.
He admitted painkillers worked but said they turn him into a zombie.
"I'm not functional socially," Marthaler said.
Dr. Robert Townsend, with Denali Healthcare , said it's a common reason patients choose marijuana over medication.
"Many people have conditions that marijuana has been found to be helpful with," said the doctor., "such as chronic pain, glaucoma, seizures, muscle spasms."
The doctor believes it's a safer choice because prescriptions can lead to negative side effects and overdoses.
"If I can reduce the number of medications with significant side effects you're taking by giving you a medicine that doesn't have side effects, Iâ??ve improved your health," Townsend said.
Many medical providers and hospitals do not write prescriptions for marijuana. The University of Wisconsin hospital says it's because it isn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration; it is still smoking, which is harmful to your lungs, and it can also be harmful to memory, judgment and ability to process information.
Lastly, the site notes there are legal drugs that may work just as well.