‘She’s a fighter’

Nearly octogenarian patient Neoma Denny says medical cannabis helped her beat cancer, death

Neoma Denny says medical cannabis saved her life.

Neoma Denny says medical cannabis saved her life.


Apparently, my joint-rolling skills aren’t up to par.

“Honey, if you didn’t know how to roll,” begins 78-year-old medical-cannabis patient Neoma Denny, “you should have said something.”

I’m at Denny’s south Sacramento home. Native American art decorates her two-bedroom apartment. “I’m old,” she explains, “but my mind is very alert.” She pinches my disgraced cylinder of cannabis between her index finger and thumb while naming off what seems to be the entire staff at Capitol Wellness Collective, a dispensary on 14th Street she used to frequent before her disabilities became too serious to travel. “They call me Grandma,” she smiles.

Denny gently inhales from the joint, then exhales and confirms, “Yeah, you can’t roll.”

Eight years ago, Denny’s physician explained that primary biliary cirrhosis of the liver would be the catalyst that cuts her life short; he gave her only a year to live. But after losing some of her eyesight to glaucoma, a broken back last December and a bout with breast cancer, the 93-pound, unapologetically blunt patient credits all her healing miracles to mighty medical cannabis—specifically the indicas and her Grandaddy Purple strain.

“I started smoking marijuana when I was 15,” she remembers, “and yes, I inhaled. And I’m so happy I did.” She laughs. “I still enjoy life as sick as I am, half-blind. Medical marijuana is my lifeline.”

Denny pops up from her seat and brews a pot of coffee. She’s half-blind, but rummages through the kitchen, grabbing mugs and a gallon of 1 percent milk with ease.

While pouring cream into black coffee, she mentions that medical-pot activist Jack Herer himself called her “his little Indian.” And she again praises her medicine. “I feel that I see and I know for sure what medical marijuana does,” she says, lamenting that the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors are “not informed.”

“In fact, they’re misinformed,” she argues. “If they’re not informed, how do they make correct decisions?”

“What I see is 100 percent progress,” explains her son Patrick Denny. “There’s nothing else that helps her more, honestly. I think it’s pretty much saved her life.”

Capitol Wellness dispensary manager Carol Ellis says Denny is an outspoken and big supporter of the medical-cannabis movement. “She’s what the movement’s all about. She’s really sick and she’s not the face you’d expect to see on medical marijuana. You wouldn’t expect to see your grandma.

“She’s a fighter.”

A true believer in the power of the plant, Denny attests she’s living proof that her medicine of choice is responsible for not only keeping her alive, but well. “My life still has quality to it. I’m 78 years old and might live to 88.

“I have seen too many people die because they’ve been denied the right to have [medical cannabis]. Why should we let people die because of that? And I will be telling people that until I leave. And then, I will be telling them from the leaves that blow.”