Why MS patient Marcel Gignac needs 30 grams of medical marijuana every day

In Feature Stories, Multiple Sclerosis, Regulatory by Chris Riddell

In our ongoing series of patient stories, The Medical Marijuana Review interviews Nova Scotia resident Marcel Gignac about his painful condition and what brought him to value the medical efficacy of marijuana. Learn why the 51-year-old needs his 30 grams of medical marijuana every day in order to maintain a balanced quality of life.

The way Marcel Gignac came to use medical marijuana for his multiple sclerosis (MS) is a unique success story. When doctors thought he wouldn’t survive, he defeated the disease thanks to a daily intake of medical marijuana.

It all started on New Year’s Day, 2008 in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Gignac, 51, had to leave work as an account manager and head to the hospital because he thought he was having a stroke. All the symptoms of a stroke were there, but a blood test and EKG revealed that it wasn’t a stroke or a heart attack. Doctors sent him home with five different pills.

“The doctor said I either had ALS or the worst case of MS they had ever seen, so I had to get some testing. Within a couple months after that I was in a wheelchair,” Gignac says in a phone interview. “It was a very aggressive form of MS that isn’t usually diagnosed until after the patient dies and they do an autopsy.”

From the start, he was adamant about not taking narcotics. He began researching and soon found that no matter the neurological condition, marijuana can help its symptoms. Gignac was no stranger to marijuana, having smoked it recreationally since he was 12, but at the time he hadn’t done so in 10 years.

Gignac began smoking again and found that it was helping. His doctor, however, would not sign his medical marijuana access registration (MMAR) forms until there was a confirmed diagnosis. The problem he then faced was getting that diagnosis in a timely fashion.

Over the next 18 months he had over 200 blood tests, a CAT scan, a full- body X-ray, 6 MRIs and a spinal tap. Even after all those exams, he still could not get an official diagnosis. He ended up going through numerous doctors along the way.

“I’ve called doctors on a lot of things, because I’m not a stupid person,” says Gignac. “I’ve been researching this long enough…A doctor that told me I didn’t have MS, and that my only problem was that I was depressed, and that depression causes pain. He offered to write me a prescription for OxyContin, so I fired him.

“All they ever wanted to do was hand me narcotics. Why would I want to take something that is going to mask it when I can use cannabis and get rid of it?”

In 2009 he finally got his diagnosis, and in September of that year his doctor signed the MMAR forms. That day a grower arrived at his house with a bag of marijuana, and Gignac started a regimen of smoking or ingesting the plant three or four times a day. It allowed him to stop taking the 27 different pills he was on at the time.

But his troubles didn’t end there. In the summer of 2010, his stomach started acting up and he couldn’t eat. This led to another hospital visit where he dealt with more doctors who couldn’t make out what the problem was. Gignac repeatedly asked if it was caused by the MS, but the doctors didn’t think that was possible. Their theory was that it was either an extreme case of colitis or he had tumours all over his body.

Surgery revealed something else. His internal organs were all fine except for a couple of small cysts on his liver that were healing. Surgeons found that the nerves in his small intestine were acting on their own and closing it. This nerve damage was indeed caused by the MS.

In October 2011, the doctors told him that he wouldn’t last until Christmas. By this point, Gignac had lost over 100 pounds and his condition was worsening. He went to New York for an emergency angioplasty that opened his jugular and allowed blood to flow through. The improvement lasted six months and once again Gignac commenced his own research. This time, he began looking into lipids and how they function.

Doctors tried to get him on more narcotics, but he refused. Instead, he upped his marijuana intake. In March 2013, Gignac started taking hemp seed oil mixed with pure cannabis extract and liquid vitamin D. His condition improved, and continues to improve.

Today, Gignac consumes 30 grams of marijuana each day; 20 grams are ingested and 10 grams are smoked. He has consumed 80 pounds of marijuana over the last 4 years.

“I walk into my doctor’s office now once a year and he’s just stunned,” says Gignac. “He’ll have a whole pile of questions for me in regards to medicinal cannabis for his other patients.”

Even when every doctor told him he would not survive, Gignac defied the odds thanks to marijuana. Now he wants everyone to know his story.

He became certified in Cannabinoids In Clinical Practice through the ACE program from McGill University in Montreal. Now he is studying Neuropharmacology from MIT so he “may better understand the relation of cannabinoids and the synaptic response at the cellular level.”

“I teach people how to stay alive using cannabis,” he says. “That’s all I do. I have nothing to gain from this by going public. There is no monetary incentive for this. The only reason I’ve been using myself as a guinea pig for the last five years isn’t for me; it’s to prove that this can work.”