The Plant That Saved My Life: Brett Strauss Shares his Experience with Medical Cannabis
After two-time cancer survivor Brett Strauss experienced the medicinal benefits of cannabis firsthand, he immediately sprang into action, spearheading policy change in Colorado.
My name is Brett Strauss. I am a two-time cancer survivor and the CEO of Pure Nutrients, a company that manufactures and develops pesticides and washes that are safe for both plants and the patients who medicate with them.
I was first diagnosed with cancer in May 2007. Three months later, I had surgery on six tumors that were imbedded in my thyroid. I had a 100% thyroidectomy at that time. Fast forward to January 2010, when I had a routine ultrasound that showed five masses in the lymph nodes in the soft tissues of my neck.
The medical staff instantly took a fine-needle biopsy of all five masses, including one that was tucked behind my carotid artery. A week later, I was told that all five tumors were malignant.
I received the news while working in Pueblo, Colorado, in my greenhouse. I was in the middle of unloading a semi-truck full of Sunshine No. 4 Potting Soil. I was not only severely devastated by the news, I also ended up severely damaging a muscle in my back that day.
The following day, crippled by the news and the severe back pain, I hobbled into my office at LAKK Investments in Colorado. LAKK invests in marijuana businesses, and owns and controls the grow operations for Garden of the Gods Wellness, an upscale dispensary in Colorado Springs.
When I limped into my office, I was met by Olympic gold-medalist wrestler Jeff Cervone, who operated the dispensary. After hearing the news of my wrecked back and cancer diagnosis, Jeff suggested I try a high-CBD cream on my neck that he had just received from a lady at Elsie’s Edibles in Grand Junction. I said, “No thanks. I have severe back pain and cancer. I need heavy-duty painkillers, not some voodoo marijuana cream.”
Jeff urged me to reconsider, so I gave the cream a try. Within 30 minutes of applying it to my back, the pain was completely gone. Later that day, I met a lady named Kathy who came to me to help her open a local MMJ center.
Kathy suffered from crippling arthritis and wore soft casts on her hands. She could barely move her fingers or hands. As I was newly won over by the MMJ balm Jeff gave me, I gave her some to try. Within minutes, Kathy was able to move her hands again.
At that point, I had seen all I needed to see, and started to apply the balm to my neck as well as my back. My next surgery was scheduled on the Ides of March—March 15, 2010—three months after my second cancer diagnosis.
I was so nervous for my surgery that I named my new Rottweiler Caesar, in honor of the Ides of March and the day Julius Caesar died. I was thinking that if I died in surgery, I could live on through my new puppy. It sounds crazy now, but this is what fear and cancer does to the mind. I remember my friend Nate Vasquez being there as I went under, the same man who was there the first time I came out of surgery in 2007.
I was in surgery for approximately four hours. When I came out of surgery and read the results of the post-surgery biopsy report, it was incredible. Four of the tumors in the lymph nodes of my neck were completely benign, but the one behind my carotid artery was still malignant.
The report basically said to me that every tumor the CBD balm came into contact with was cured, and the one it couldn’t reach, behind my carotid artery where it couldn’t be touched, was still cancerous. I had been 90% cured. I continued to use the cream and took radioactive iodine treatment as a counter measure. As I write this story in early 2016, I am still, to this day, cancer-free.
The news of what happened to me became a high-profile story in the media—so much so that I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Capital in Washington, DC, on 4:20 that year. Doctors validated my medical results in the newspaper and on TV. For many, it was the first credible report of its kind.
As a result of what happened to me, I became more involved than ever with the cannabis plant, in alternative methods of healing, in other patients and in the development of safe pesticides that would not add cancer-causing agents to what I now believe is a medical cure for a terminal illness.
I started my own study, and partnered up with two doctors who were members of the already-established Colorado Compassionate Physicians, a local office dedicated to helping those in the community find alternative methods of pain relief.
We set out to arrange free doctor visits for anybody dealing with a possibly terminal illness. Our goal was to get these people recommendations for medical marijuana, and either cover the cost of their medication or provide it at cost.
I also got heavily involved with the State of Colorado and even took over a group looking to get House Bill 1284 passed. House Bill 1284 was a dead bill at the time and had zero support from law enforcement or the growing community. It was a gray-area bill that allowed patients to use and grow of marijuana, but did not allow for the sale of pot.
So, a person could grow pot and provide it for patients, but selling it to others was still considered illegal. Not only were people not able to get the medicine they needed, they were losing their freedom under a law that was subjective and ambiguous.
I took over this task force after meeting with Senator Chris Romer’s office at the state capital. They informed me that they trusted this task to others, but they never got behind it and the bill had little support. I quickly got to work organizing the Colorado Grown Community.
This rag-tag group of growers, business owners, law-enforcement officials, doctors, patients and lawyers started a dialog and began taking the bill apart to make it work the best we could for all parties concerned. I wanted to be part of the solution, so I financed and paid for the endeavor myself, including covering all the legal fees.
We worked day and night, disseminating our information to the House and Senate members across party lines. Subsequently, the once-dead bill passed (with some revisions) and the boom of medicinal cannabis—and now recreational marijuana—began in Colorado, once it was legalized and legitimized.
Colorado became the first state to legalize the sale of pot as we know it, and now, thousands of patients of all ages continue to move to Colorado every year to get the lifesaving medicines they need, without the fear of legal repercussions or any negative stigma.
Along with my crusade to legitimize Colorado’s cannabis industry, in 2012 I founded Pure Nutrients to help develop safe pesticides and fungicides that not only protect the plants, but protect the patients, while providing growers with a safe alternative to chemical pesticides that works better.
I was tired of manufacturers not telling growers what they were putting in the products that were being used on plants. It made me suspicious that hazardous, cancer-causing chemicals were being used on cannabis and our food crops with little or no care or disclosure to the end user.
This is a fight we are still fighting at Pure, and one we intend on winning. The cannabis plant, in my opinion, saved my life, and in return, I have and will continue to do the same for it.