Kenyon Snow, a cannabis patient of Tim’s, shares his struggle with severe ulcerative colitis, and how he benefited from Medical Marijuana while traditional drugs were not effective.
Kenyon was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis in 2014. He was put on immunosuppressants, like Humira, and was okay for a couple of years. However, in 2016, he had a bad flare-up on his wedding day. He was put on steroids to control it. After returning from his honeymoon, he had another colonoscopy before being put on Remicade, another strong immunosuppressant.
In February of 2017, another colonoscopy and biopsy were done, returning a precancerous result. This led to Kenyon’s colon being removed in March 2017. In July of 2017, his rectum was also removed. He then had an ileostomy, requiring him to wear a bag from the small intestine. His stoma is not on his right side, as is usual, because when he had a revision done in 2018 which caused him to develop necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria. Two weeks after that surgery, they went in to cut away a large part of his abdomen and move his stoma to the left side of his body.
This year he had a hernia, right next to his stoma. It looked to have become strangulated, so Kenyon was put on Oxycodone for a month (which he hates and describes as a nightmare). However, because of Kenyon’s past history, along with COVID hitting, they decided to hold off on additional surgery until absolutely necessary.
There are different levels of ulcerative colitis. The steroid prescribed is usually Prednisone, 60mg a day, which has unfortunate side-effects like water-retention. People can also have bad psychoactive responses to these steroids. Kenyon confirms that he nearly broke up with his wife, his then fiancée, because the Prednisone gave him bad paranoia.
Humira is also used often, which is a drug you inject weekly. You have to keep it refrigerated and it’s very expensive, along with being painful to inject. Remicade, which must be specially approved, is a once-a-month IV infusion that patients must undergo.
The more serious surgery that Kenyon had is called a total abdominal colectomy and proctectomy. Any further surgery would have been problematic, as they would have been dealing with a so-called ‘hostile abdomen’ (ie. enormous amounts of scar tissue).
Kenyon’s brother-in-law in Arizona, where Medical Cannabis was already legal, got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and also had to have his colon removed. He found that cannabis was very effective for pain relief. On a visit to Arizona in March, just as everything was shutting down for COVID, Kenyon decided to try it as well. He got a vape pen, and for the first time since his diagnosis in 2014, was pain-free without opioids.
It was the first time he had ever used cannabis, and his wife was initially apprehensive about its usage. At the time, Tim was one of the only QMPs in Utah. Kenyon accessed Tim’s website from Arizona and set up an appointment.
Tim was just setting up his office, and with the COVID restrictions patients were being assisted carside. Most of the consultation would be done by phone, followed by payment being taken by credit card, in-person, by those wearing masks and gloves. People needed that face-to-face contact. Tim remembers clearly that Kenyon had no previous experience with cannabis at the time.
He first started using vape cartridges but now prefers flower, as he finds it most effective and the easiest way to gauge appropriate doses. He also can’t help but remember when people died of ‘popcorn lung’ as a result of counterfeit vape cartridges. He buys his flower from the pharmacies and only uses vape cartridges when flower is not readily available.
Once Zion Pharmaceuticals started releasing products, Kenyon started purchasing from them. He mostly uses a vaporizer and considers Zion the best flower he’s tried (particularly their Pink Starburst Petrol strain, which has a wonderful aroma).
Kenyon admits that talking to his wife about his medical cannabis usage wasn’t easy, as cannabis (even now) is still somewhat of a taboo subject. It was a difficult subject to raise, particularly because they both belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She had the misconception, as many do, that the church was completely against cannabis use. Kenyon showed her in church doctrine where they’ve come out and said that as long as you have a Medical Card, there’s no problem with it. At this point she became more comfortable with the idea.
That’s when Kenyon started his Instagram account to try and educate people who had similar health issues that they could benefit from cannabis. He is trying to show them that it is a safe alternative to traditional medical drugs, especially when it comes to pain relief. Apart from a single daily antidepressant, Kenyon is now off of other strong traditional medications that he had been prescribed for years.
For the most part, close friends and family who knew his medical history and what he had been through, were understanding of his usage— particularly given that Kenyon had been so addicted to opioid painkillers that he was considering checking himself into rehab. Tim points out that opioids cause a lot of problems with constipation because they slow down the bowel function ‘to a crawl’ and can cause people to lose their appetite.
At work some people are still ambiguous about Kenyon’s Medical Cannabis use, and wonder if Medical Cannabis users are always ‘legit’. He thinks the biggest thing is to get rid of that stigma that is still attached to cannabis use so that people will just accept it as normal.
Obviously, inhaling takes effect a lot more quickly than ingesting, but then ingesting lasts a lot longer, so his use depends on what he needs. He’s got flower, vape cartridges, gummies, and tinctures. When he’s in a lot of pain, especially at nighttime, then he’ll take a gummy because he knows it’ll last all day and he’ll wake up feeling good.
Yes, he does so because every now and then to help with the nausea caused by his GI tract being messed up. He just got a new vape cartridge from Deseret Wellness (who recently opened in Provo) called Maui Wowie, made by Dragonfly. Hee highly recommends this cartridge for relieving nausea and leaving your mind clear.
Kenyon says that he started with low doses because he wanted to make sure that his body could tolerate it, and needed to determine how different dosages would affect him. His usage then increased from there. However, he now only uses medical cannabis when needed, which is a few times a week.
Whenever Kenyon tells people that he has a Medical Card for cannabis, one of the first questions they usually ask is, “what about recreational use”? Kenyon doesn’t see an issue with people who use cannabis recreationally. He thinks of it along the same lines as alcohol. When used responsibly, there is no harm, especially in Utah, where there is a narrow window of qualifying conditions (with some, like sleep disorders and irritable bowel syndrome, being removed from the list of qualifying conditions).
Tim points out that he understands no conditions will be added to this qualifying list in the immediate future. He believes it would take a big groundswell of public opinion to get any movement on that front.
He didn’t try anything that was “pharmaceutical” grade. He had tried some CBD oil just for trying to help with pain and sleep, but he didn’t notice a huge difference. It was also so expensive that it wasn’t really worth it. It was just better to stay on the sleeping medication he was on at the time.
Now that he has his Medical Card however, he’s able to buy CBD flower at the pharmacy. This CBD actually works really well for him. He likes to vaporize one part CBD to one part THC, and finds that effective for pain and anxiety without it affecting his clarity of mind.
His mom was apprehensive at first, having grown up in an era that viewed marijuana in a very negative light. Kenyon sent her articles that convinced her of Medical Cannabis’ legitimacy. But overall, his family has been super supportive – particularly having seen the huge change it’s made to his well-being. He can now fully participate in family events and enjoy life again.
Get in touch with Kenyon on his Instagram, @beehive.cannabis.culture
Tim is at UtahMarijuana.org if people need help getting their medical cannabis cards.
Chris is at the IAmSaltLake.com podcast.