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I'm 50 and weed has been my medicine for 37 years

NYC based, award-winning Pilates & Fitness teacher, Usui Reiki Master, Health and Fitness Blogger

I'm a pot-smoking grandma and weed has helped me live a full life

I am an almost-50-year-old, successful fitness professional and grandmother, and I smoke marijuana.

I have been smoking regularly since I was about 13, which is a solid 37 years. While I bristled against the illegality, I also knew from my own experience that weed made me feel better and sleep better without the side effects of everything else. During that time, I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, taught philosophy at several major universities, became a certified Pilates teacher and personal trainer, started training Pilates teachers, got married, helped raise my stepson, and lived in the Caribbean for a few years. Yes, all that while smoking weed!

I could just take pharmaceuticals. After all, I know them well. My mother was bipolar and pre-lithium was on a constant cocktail involving many random psychotropic medications. My dad took medication for asthma, allergies, anxiety and high blood pressure. Our medicine cabinets were always full. While my parents taught me that people often needed help in the form of pharmaceuticals, so did life. My mom's mental illness and my father's choice to take care of her, sometimes at the expense of my well-being and safety, left me anxious and socially inept. As a pre-teen I was in chronic physical pain due to severe endometriosis and emotional pain from my messed up family.

More: Women and weed: Why women are the future of marijuana legalization

I choose to smoke marijuana to help me manage chronic pain (nerve pain from shingles and back injuries, among other issues), anxiety and insomnia. I like to be in control of my body and behavior. As an adult, most people I know drink alcohol, some take narcotics and still others take antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills. Some of the reasons I'm a sought-after Pilates teacher is my knowledge, focus and attention to detail. The medications in my mother's cabinet made her, for lack of a better term, fuzzy. I knew they weren't right for me because I experimented with all of them — Valium, Seconal, Ativan, Thorazine, Stelazine and Klonopin, to name a few.

I want to fully experience life and enjoy the process. So when my doctors tried to give me some of those same prescriptions, I realized that pills, legal and socially acceptable or not, were out. I have always been too risk-averse to really gravitate toward cocaine, meth or opiates. Alcohol sometimes made me sick and left me too out of control. The one drug that was natural, kept me functional and always eased both my physical pain and anxiety with no unwanted side effects was marijuana.

More: How I cured my menstrual cramps using weed — without getting high

Now, I also do other things for self-care. I found Pilates and reiki to be great pain relievers and relaxers, so they help. I also eat well and take anti-inflammatory and probiotic supplements. The only pills I take now are supplements, allergy medication and Synthroid.

Do I smoke all the time? No. When I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to start my day of training clients, I am more concerned about caffeine and proper nutrition. I have sometimes gone up to a year without imbibing. But I do find that when I don't have weed, I drink an extra glass of wine at night, struggle with sleep and end up taking more Aleve for pain. I don't crave marijuana in the same way I might crave chocolate, but when I have it, my quality of life is much improved.

Smoking marijuana has affected my job opportunities because I refuse to take drug tests, which rules out working on Wall Street. I am OK with that. Instead, I train the Wall Street people when their backs go out from sitting at a desk all day. Generally, my job performance tends to be so great that nobody worries about what I do to relax. The fact is, marijuana use has no negative effects on our fitness, including cardiovascular fitness. As one would expect, a few hits before a workout can help keep you in the zone and focused. Even better, cannabis users are less insulin-resistant and tend to have smaller waistlines, which many cardiologists say is the best signal of heart health.

More: Why I'm not afraid to use weed in front of my kids

I use my cannabis to help me relax, get out of pain and help me sleep, preferring to work out before I imbibe. While many of my clients like to exercise high, I do not. However, when I have exercised after smoking weed, I perform as well as I do without it.

I am respectful of other people's choice to not smoke weed. I don't smoke on the street or in places where other people have to smell it too. Any place I have lived, I use a good fan blowing out an open window to keep the smell at bay. Plus, now I live high up, away from people. I regularly spray with a good, natural odor-remover. I plan to continue being respectful when marijuana is fully legal in all 50 states.

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