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“Medical Marijuana Saved Me from a ‘Downward Spiral'”, Former NFL Player Tells Louisiana Lawmakers

In 2011, former New Orleans Saints special teams ace Steve Gleason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Sclerosis (ALS). He has thrived and figured out how to live his life with this medical condition because a friend of his suggested medical marijuana.

Who is Steve Gleason?

Stephen Michael Gleason is a former professional football player. He was born on March 19, 1977, in Spokane, Washington. He played as a safety with the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.

The highlights of his career include his blocking of a punt early in a 2006 game, which became a symbol of recovery in New Orleans. It was one of the team’s most dramatic and memorable moments as it was the team’s first home game win after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and the team.

The team went on to have one of the most successful seasons in their history. They qualified for the NFC Championship that year.

In 2011, Gleason was awarded the key to the city of New Orleans by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. In the same year, he revealed that he was battling ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which had become a turning point in his life and career.

What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)?

Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, it’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. It severely affects muscle function in the following ways:

  • It causes the loss of the ability of motor neurons to function
  • It causes various muscle cells to waste away (atrophy), resulting in increased muscle weakness
  • It makes it impossible to control normal muscle function

Symptoms of ALS include:

  • Twitching and cramping of muscles (fasciculation)
  • Stiffness in muscles (spasticity)
  • Increased loss of motor control in hands and arms and legs
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Slurred or thick speech
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

In the U.S., it is reported that every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed with ALS.

The sad truth is that there is currently only a single therapy approved for treating ALS progression which modestly benefits an estimated three-month extension in patient survival.

Gleason’s Fight With ALS

Since Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. Prior to that, he talks of how the disease has humiliated his body.

He also talked about how ALS had annihilated his mind, causing anger, frustration, and suffering that he had never known before he was diagnosed with the disease on January 5, 2011.

In his own words, Gleason summarized his testimony at the Medical Marijuana Committee meeting on August 28, 2021, with these excerpts that he posted on his Twitter account:

  • “When I was diagnosed with ALS, over ten years ago, my world was shattered. Michel, my wife, who was born and raised in New Orleans…our world was shattered…I felt strong, and Michel and I were living a great life. And now this expert doctor was telling us that I would be dead sometime in the next three years.

As the disease progressed over the next two years, I lost the ability to move or talk. And I was losing the ability to breathe.”

  • “My world, which had once been a place of strength, friendship, community, love, and learning…It became a bubble of weakness, isolation, and complete loneliness.

I vividly remember the first night in that hospital bed. I was staring at the ceiling, with no ability to move or communicate. I remember feeling the cold rubber of the inflatable mattress below my fingers and legs. It was a waking nightmare.

The ultra isolation of the hospital bed caused overwhelming fear in my mind. I would have nights when I would only sleep two or three hours.”

  • “The experts prescribed anxiety pain pills and I got more sleep, but during the day I felt like a zombie. I was ultra lethargic, I started to feel purposeless, and I became mostly unproductive.

All these pills caused severe side effects for me, I would get terrible headaches, and I would have thoughts and feelings that weren’t the person I am at my core. I was angry and resentful to other people, and to myself. This was a psychological downward spiral.”

Medical Marijuana: A Solution to Break Out the Downward Spiral of Pharmaceuticals

On September 10, 2021, Cannabis World reported that this date “marked the first time Gleason had ever spoken publicly about his use of the drug (medical marijuana).”

He testified before the Medical Marijuana Commission set up by the Louisiana Legislature. It was a remarkable testimony to how medical marijuana saved this former NFL player.

Important points that Gleason talked about using medical marijuana:

  • Medical marijuana gave him the ability to find a new purpose in life.
  • When he talked about his experience of moving from pain to productivity, he said, “This new solution allowed me to ween off of prescription pharmaceuticals completely. I felt good physically, and my head was much clearer. I felt healthy, I felt energized, I felt free. Free from the downward spiral my body and my mind had experienced with pain and anxiety pills.”
  • “I regularly recommend it (medical marijuana) to people I am friends with, if they are using opioids or other pharmaceuticals. From my experience, marijuana is a much better solution than pills.”

Gleason experienced this great relief with the use of medical marijuana after asking a lot of people and searching desperately for answers and some type of solution when one of his friends suggested that he use marijuana tincture. Since then, his life has been better.

He continues to work on growing his ALS advocacy foundation named Team Gleason, which has since given $18 million in adventure, technology, equipment, and care services to over 20,000 people living with ALS, as reported by Marijuana Moment.

No White Flags

Team Gleason’s motto “No white flags” emphasizes that life’s limitations cannot hold someone back from achieving their full potential.

After Gleason’s battle with ALS, he and his team continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in living with ALS by finding solutions, including challenging legislation on the use of medical marijuana the same way it saved this former NFL player.


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Our licensed doctors share the conviction in the use of cannabis to assist their patients to ensure happier, healthier, and more productive lives. Contact us for more information.


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