Gabrielle Dion Visca on Cannabis and starting MedicateOH

STORIES FROM THE COMMUNITY

Gabby Dion Visca talks about her experience with Marijuana as Medicine, and sharing her new-found healing with others

Co-Founder of MedicateOH Magazine

Joined Cannabis Industry: 2019

written by for WomenCann


My Cannabis Story

An Ohioan by birth, my cannabis story begins way across the country in Nevada in 2015. 

I had been an active marathon runner and Zumba instructor throughout my 30s, right before a  diagnosis of degenerative disc disease in 2013 quickly and dramatically altered the course of my life. After my first spinal fusion surgery in Ohio in 2014, I got married and moved to Las Vegas, where my orthopedic surgeon would recommend a second surgery. He’d also recommend a newly-legal substance to Nevadans: medicinal cannabis. 

It became clear to myself and my husband that I’d become addicted to the opioid pain medicines I’d been prescribed through the years – primarily as a way to dull the pain from excruciating treatments for my condition. So now in 2015, headed into my second back surgery, I was desperate for something better. 

My surgeon’s cannabis recommendation (along with dispensary budtenders guiding my purchases) likely saved my life. It was a fresh start for me. 

And another fresh start was just around the corner. 

A few years later in 2017, I moved from Las Vegas, Nevada back to Cincinnati, Ohio after my mother died so I could rebuild my life with the support of close family and friends. During this time, I had to make the very difficult decision to treat my degenerative disc disease pain with opiates, as Ohio had yet to legalize cannabis. 

In January 2019, I was among the first in line in Cincinnati to sign up for a medical marijuana card. 

And in June 2019, I took my last opioid pill. 


Founding MedicateOH

I wanted to learn more about the plant that was helping facilitate this extraordinary healing, and I wanted to use my background as a journalist to explore this new frontier of medicine. My co-founder, Jim Goldschmidt, and I built a digital publication designed to meet the immense need for reliable information about cannabis in Ohio. We took inspiration from Nevada’s ElevateNV magazine and got straight to work telling the stories of Ohio cannabis.  

We debuted MedicateOH at the Ohio Marijuana Expo in Cincinnati in June 2019. Shortly thereafter, we hired our first employee, Alex Pearson, a Dayton-based mom, PR, design expert, and journalist. Alex brought her design flair and developed our foundational beliefs:

Alex brought her design flair and developed our foundational beliefs:

  • legally sound
  • patient-focused
  • safe space
  • empowering

We wanted these core tenets to reflect in everything we do, from the stories we choose to write, to the events we produce, to the media through which we communicate these thoughts. 


Hitting Roadblocks

As we delved into our first year, things got rough. The cumbersome marketing rules set forth by the state were continuing to make it near impossible to accomplish our goals. 

But we pivoted and pressed on. We found the heart of our publication with our Fall 2019 series, “Women Making Weed Work in Ohio”. Columbus mom and freelance writer Linda Lee Baird helped develop this series, which she captured beautifully: Green Harvest Health’s Dr. Bridget Williams, Terrasana‘s Emilie Ramach, advocate Wendy Johnson and vocal cannabis activist Mary Allegar, all women contributing to furthering the education of cannabis patients in Ohio.


Building Staff & Stories

One of my greatest hopes with starting MedicateOH, was to provide a way for women to work from home doing cannabis journalism while tending to children or parents, are homebound by disability or are going to school. For me, my freelance writing career helped me make some side income through major life changes, so I wanted to build an organization that extends that opportunity to other women. 

Among the first of these women I encountered was Tiffany Carwile, a Bryan, Ohio mother of autism warrior, Jaxsyn. Jaxsyn’s success with cannabis led Tiffany to fight for wider access in Ohio for patients like her son. Her efforts resulted in House Bill 60, which awaits further legislative review. While that bill hangs in limbo, it likely helped inspire and advance Rep. Steve Huffman’s bill, which passed the Senate and argues the same point that House Bill 60 did. (Any doctor should be able to recommend cannabis for any patient that may “reasonably be expected” to be helped by it—including children.) Tiffany helped MedicateOH readers understand the issue, and she also penned this impactful story on the passing of pediatric cannabis hero Charlotte Figi. 

Sharing Tiffany and Jaxsyn’s remarkable journey has given readers a peek into the life of what it’s like to be a mother advocating for a medicine she knows is legitimately helping her son and so many thousands of autistic children in Ohio and beyond. 

NORML Appalachia of Ohio’s Jolie Moyer has been an active member of our team as well, helping our readership understand the importance of decriminalization in addition to fighting for greater patient access. NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) and Sensible Movement Coalition’s efforts have led to over 30 Ohio municipalities with fines reduced to zero. Their accomplishments have been ground-breaking and have likely saved thousands of unfair arrests. We’re grateful to continue telling this important and often neglected part of the cannabis story. 

Among our most exciting partnerships has certainly been with Mary Jane Borden, veteran cannabis journalist, activist, artist, and staff writer for the Columbus Free Press. In a mutually-beneficial agreement with the Free Press, Mary Jane’s articles are shared with our MedicateOH audience and MedicateOH contributes a monthly article to the Free Press. 


Clubhouse Chat Channel & Forging Community Partnerships

The MedicateOH Clubhouse Chat is an extended learning module for University of Cincinnati’s Introduction to Hemp and Medical Cannabis course. It’s been a wonderful partnership with adjunct UC professor Bonnie Rabin, and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new group of students this semester beginning January 20th. To join the MedicateOH Clubhouse Chat, click here. 

MedicateOH prioritizes highlighting women and minorities making important contributions in the cannabis industry. In August, we served as a media partner for the Midwest Cannafest. We also share an active partnership with WomenCann, and are looking forward to building an inclusive cannabis community together.

Through our articles, MedicateOH has been able to tell the stories of Ohio women healing from their conditions with cannabis. Ohio women have been featured prominently in more articles than I can even count, from our pieces on Fibromyalgia, Breast Cancer, and Type 1 Diabetes to our series on what products are working for Ohioans with PTSD.


First Fundraisers

In March 2020, MedicateOH became a fiscally-sponsored community impact project of Community Shares of Mid-Ohio, a non-profit organization. 

We ended 2020 with our first MedicateOH online fundraiser, the 12 Days of Cannabis. Once state pandemic restrictions made it safe to do so, we held our first live fundraiser, our “420” Trivia, Tunes & Tarot on 4/20/21 at Latitudes Cafe and Bistro in Cincinnati, followed by an education event for PTSD Awareness Day at Ohio CBD Guy at Cincinnati’s Woodburn Brewing in June.

Our first northern Ohio fundraiser, the Community Wellness Brunch and Learn took place in Hudson, Ohio in August 2021. Then we headed back to Cincinnati for our Cannabis Health Fair & Hippie Arts Yard Sale on September 25th. And in December, we held our final fundraiser of 2021, our Cannabis Health Fair and Holidaze Gift Market. At our events, we’re proud to have gathered mostly women-owned and women-led cannabis brands and ancillary services, along with women-owned small businesses that find inspiration from cannabis in their products and services. 

In 2022, our first community education event will be Soothing Saturday on February 26th at the Cleveland School of Cannabis Columbus campus. We invite interested patients, families, caregivers, and friends to come and learn more about holistic health treatments for the body and mind. Interested vendors and sponsors can reserve their spot here or email Gabrielle at gabrielle@medicateOH.com for more information. 

To volunteer your talents, join our new writers’ program, or learn more about MedicateOH, go to https://medicateoh.com/about-medicateoh/ or email us with your resume at medicateOH@gmail.com.

Gabrielle Dion Visca is founder and publisher of MedicateOH, a non-profit that supports the medical marijuana community in Ohio. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Gabrielle holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public administration, both from Northern Kentucky University. She has more than 25 years of experience writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries, including positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop.

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