dr. michele ross
Dr. Michele Ross is one of many cannabis experts sharing their expertise through Green Flower.

Dr. Michele Ross is far from your typical cannabis advocate.

As a neuroscientist who spent years researching the effects of addiction in an academic setting, she never expected that she would eventually become one of the most vocal neuroscientists and medical professionals advocating for cannabis in the United States.

She is also featured in Green Flower's Beginners Series, which features insights on how to use cannabis for a number of specific conditions and ailments.

But who is Dr. Michele Ross? How did she get involved in cannabis?

A Neuroscientist, a Serial Killer, and a Zombie Walk into a Room...

brain health
Ross has been fascinated with brain health since childhood.

Dr. Ross has been interested in brain health since she was a child. “I was interested in brains since I was about five years old – I was obsessed with them!” she exclaims.

“I tell a joke that there are only three things I could be: a neuroscientist, a zombie or a serial killer,” she laughs. “I think I picked the right one!”

Her career began in science and academia, with nary a thought on cannabis or any other Schedule I substances, aside from those she was researching in her addiction laboratories.

“As an academic, I published my first paper on cannabinoids and neurogenesis, which is the study of the growth of brain cells,” she says.

Working on this paper alerted her to the benefits of cannabis, but she still had not taken cannabis into serious consideration and wasn’t using cannabis personally yet.

Discovering Cannabis As Medicine

cannabis as medicine
Ross didn't understand the benefits of cannabis until she became a patient herself.

Everything changed when she began to experience her own personal health issues.

“I had a lot of health problems that modern medicine couldn’t treat,” Dr. Michele Ross explains.

“For example, I had two nerves in my arm, the radial and ulnar nerve, just go dead. I woke up one day and I couldn’t move my hand and it was super painful.”

After exploring her options medically and facing a potentially risky surgery, she began looking for alternatives.

“The only thing that worked was eating cannabis, using cannabis cream and then getting a massage for about four hours. It ended up releasing the inflammation that was stopping my hand from working.”

Her cannabis advocacy career blossomed when she met her husband, a California cannabis grower and dispensary owner, and another passionate member of the cannabis community.

“It was really combining my science with my personal passion, and realizing that modern medicine does not work for everyone,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what the diagnosis is, it doesn’t matter what your label is.

“What matters is you have a treatment that works and that gets you back to healthy. That’s what cannabis is and that’s why I’m so passionate about being an advocate.”

Conspiracy to Write About Cannabis

Dr. Ross may be a neuroscientist and a bit of a celebrity, both in and out of the cannabis world, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean she is immune to law enforcement issues, which are so common in the cannabis industry.

In 2013, her home in Los Angeles was raided, and she ultimately ended up facing a conspiracy charge.

“I beat my case after a year, but I was harassed by the court systems. I was being charged with conspiracy to write cannabis books, because, well,” she laughs, “that’s what I was doing.”

She speaks of the incident in a fairly light-hearted tone, but the raid clearly rattled her husband, who feared for her as a high-profile and outspoken cannabis advocate.

“We were traumatized for a long time after the raid,” she says, admitting that the incident left her with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.

However, she insists that this has only strengthened her resolve and commitment to her advocacy.

“That only fanned the flames. For me, going through that whole process, realizing how hard it was as a patient, how frustrating and how scary that process was. I need to make sure that never happens to anyone else again,” she says.

The conspiracy charge did nothing to deter her work. In fact, she is releasing her second book in March, entitled Vitamin Weed, on endocannabinoid deficiencies and how to avoid them.

A Rift Between Cannabis and Academia

When asked if she experiences discrimination for her unusual choice of scientific focus, Ross admits that many scientists don’t take her seriously, often shutting the conversation down before it’s even begun.

“Academics will just not see you as a serious non-profit, or not as a serious scientist,” she reveals.

“When people hear that it’s a cannabis non-profit, they just assume that you sell cannabis, and sometimes the conversation just ends there.”

Even her former Ph.D. mentor, who originally assigned Ross the first academic paper that sparked her interest in cannabinoids as medicine, also assumed that she was just a glorified drug dealer.

“What’s interesting is that lab studied molecular psychiatry, studying all these different treatments for drug addiction and other mental health issues,” she says.

“Well, we know that CBD can be used as a treatment for different kinds of addiction. But I can’t even have a conversation with these other scientists where medical marijuana is not legal.

“I hope that as more and more states become legal, these conversations aren’t taboo, and people start listening, but the big problem with science is that your lab will only exist as long as you have money,” Ross explains. “And the person providing and writing the checks is the government.”

She continued, “As long as the government continues to say that this is a horrible drug of abuse, our research in the United States won’t get a lot of positive support from scientists.”

As a neuroscientist and admitted cannabis patient and advocate, she urges other scientists to reconsider their stance on cannabis as an abusive and dangerous drug.

“I wish more scientists out there would be patients and would consume cannabis to potentially open up their minds about it.”

Coming Full Circle

effects of thc on brain
Fighting for safe access to cannabis.

Looking back on her career in cannabis, Dr. Michele Ross muses at how her journey has come full circle.

“I was writing these papers demonizing drug use, and some of the language about any kind of drug use was really not thoughtful and not compassionate.”

After being assigned to study the endocannabinoid system, however, she began to see the benefits of using cannabis as an alternative treatment to modern medicine.

“I want to make sure that this substance is available for each and every person, no matter what city or state they’re in, no matter what country they’re in,” she emphasizes.

“And I want to make sure they have access to safe and effective medicine."

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