Montel Williams has filled many roles during his career: Award-winning daytime talk show host, actor, writer and activist. But above all, he’s a passionate promoter. As such, his word choices near perfection, he has the uncanny ability to speak in public with ease and sway listeners and viewers to feel. Whether he’s rattling off the chemical properties of his new line of cannabis products, or telling his own compelling life story, including his time in Naval Academy or his experience suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and how cannabis has eased that suffering, his passion comes through loud and clear.
Williams hosted The Montel Williams Show from 1991 to 2008. It was often the standard, daytime-talk fare—psychics, battling couples, troubled teens. But, especially in the show’s later years, Williams focused less on covering the typical stories that other shows did. Instead, he featured guests with inspirational stories of overcoming obstacles, lost loves reuniting and parents finding the children they had put up for adoption. After his diagnosis in 1999, he started devoting shows to MS. The show was later canceled in 2008. Williams has worn many hats since then: An advocate for veterans, a commercial spokesman, a philanthropist, cannabis advocate and now, cannabis entrepreneur.
“I haven’t gone a day without cannabis in 17 years.”
After his MS diagnosis, Williams became addicted to the opioids he was taking to control his debilitating symptoms, and he even attempted suicide when things were at their worst. In order to get off the opioids that were wrecking his life even worse than the MS, he turned to a more natural solution, cannabis. When asked about his first experience with cannabis, about what it was like, how it made him feel, and how it changed him, he wept. His passion for this medicinal plant went far beyond the perfect speeches and flawless suits. It was clear that cannabis did in fact save his life.
Montel’s most recent passion project is Lenitiv Scientific, LLC, a new company specializing in medical cannabis products that has just released its first new line, available in select areas. LenitivLabs offers a range of edibles and concentrates with various ratios of THC and CBD. Williams uses the word “purity” a lot in discussing the development of the product line, which he says is ongoing. “I’m not gonna talk bad about what’s come before,” he said. “But science has now hit the right mark, and we can get this done. And it’s just going to get better. We’re going to keep purifying to the point where the patients are allowed to titrate themselves to the level they need rather than at the level the dispenser or provider thinks is right.”
When were you diagnosed with MS?
I was diagnosed in 2000, but it should have been more like 1980, when I was already having mini-episodes. But back then, MS was thought of as a disease of Caucasian women, of Europeans. It was called a “Viking disease.”
What were the symptoms like once it got really bad?
I had really, really, really, really severe neuropathy, and I had severe cramping and spasticity. My legs would just be kicking and twitching. I’d wake up every 25 minutes. For 10 years, I didn’t get more than an hour-and-a-half, two hours of sleep in a row.
You were making yourself crazy, looking for relief and looking to get off opioids. How did you discover cannabis?
I chased every single one of the opioids there is, and some that you don’t even know about. We consume far more opiates here in the United States of America than anyplace else, most of them consumed illegally. Why do we do all that? Because we are inundated from birth to death with ads that tell you, “There’s something wrong with you, take a pill.” I’m convinced that the same amount of relief that I got from very expensive Western medications, I get from cannabis.
“. . . science has now hit the right mark, and we can get this done. And it’s just going to get better. We’re going to keep purifying to the point where the patients are allowed to titrate themselves to the level they need rather than at the level the dispenser or provider thinks is right.”
Did you smoke cannabis recreationally, before you got MS?
In high school, I dabbled a little bit—it was the ‘70s, man. But then I was in the military and in the government for 22 years, and I got tested all the time.
What was your experience when you finally came upon cannabis as a source of relief for your MS?
I don’t want to go too deep into some things, but taking opioids does all kinds of horrible things to your body. Like, to your intestinal tract. It was a nightmare. It’s supposed to make you feel better, and all it does is make you drool in the corner and wonder why your shit still hurts. It was time to stop. I went to the doctor after my second suicide attempt and said, “I gotta do something about this, it ain’t working.” He said to me, “I know some people, but I didn’t just tell you that. [And if you say I told you this], I will tell everybody that you are a liar, that I never said that.”
So, how did you obtain cannabis, and how did it go when you did?
In 2001, I flew to L.A. from New York, where I taped my show. L.A. had a legal program. And immediately, I was in the culture. And maybe six months into it, I started eating [cannabis]. This was before we had all these products we have now, so it was just, like, cupcakes. Then I started cooking in my kitchen. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I started making these poppy seed muffins. I haven’t gone a day without cannabis in 17 years. About 20 of those days, I’ve been on Marinol, unfortunately, because I was traveling to places where I didn’t want to get my hands cut off. Marinol is terrible. Somebody should shut that business down. Or leave it up, but just for people who need cover.
But when you first started smoking, to get off opioids . . .
Let me tell you something: For the first month, I was rolling joints. That went out the window. The second two weeks, I was sticking it into a pipe. That went out the window.
Was smoking cannabis working for you?
Oh, yeah. But it was destroying my lungs. I went to Vancouver and got a Volcano. I got off the leaf to go to the kief. Let’s see, this was in 2002, I think, when I got a vaporizer, and . . .
What was it like for you when you first started using cannabis? Was it, like, a revelation, or . . . ?
Let me tell you something. Revelation—um—I’m trying to say without, uhhh . . . I’ve been crying all damned day, so I’m tired of crying. I’m not gonna do it anymore. “Revelation” is an understatement.
So the difference was pretty much instantaneous?
When I hit the right spot, yes. It took about three months of getting my saturation level up, to stop being high, and start getting relief. Now, I have it fined-tuned to the point where if I wake up in the middle of the night with pain, I go in the bathroom—I’ve got five pens in there, and I know which is which in the dark. Bang, I’m back to sleep. I’ve got it all dialed in, absolutely.