But her trip meant she had to leave behind marijuana-based product she uses to treat a worsening medical condition.
Neil, who has epilepsy, spent two weeks in paradise with seizures occurring every few hours. The 32-year-old said she needed the products that help her manage her condition, but they were not available to her on the Pacific island, and are still not accessible in her hometown.
“I have seizures literally up to 12 times a day,” she said. “I can be talking to someone, and it’s intense. It’s unfortunately getting much, much worse.”
Neil has dealt with seizures for 11 years, she said, and received the epilepsy diagnosis in 2018. While she used marijuana recreationally in the past, she said she started exploring the plant’s various medicinal properties.
“When I started using it more in an intentional manner, I noticed things that were subtle, like sleep,” she said.
Sitting at the kitchen table in her Grand Haven home recently, she filled a tincture with a full-spectrum CBD oil, a non-psychoactive marijuana substance, and dropped it on her tongue.
Neil also uses transdermal patches and a topical salve that carry the substances, and she ingests tiny capsules filled with full-extract cannabis oil with a carrier such as coconut oil, nightly. The extract is also prescribed to cancer patients, she said.
The products are medical-grade and regulated. Neil said she hopes further research can establish the proper dosages for medical patients.
Neil operates a holistic medicine practice, Paradigm Wellness, out of her home, providing services from massage to flotation therapy. She’s hoping to add cannabis as another of her offerings, but medical marijuana businesses are banned in the city.
Neil has joined with Jamie Cooper, a Grand Haven resident who operates a marijuana industry networking business, to request city officials to consider allowing medical facilities.
Neil wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary, and said she is prepared to jump through the regulatory hurdles that dissuade many from joining the industry. She said her vision for a dispensary would not be a pot shop for casual users, but would be incorporated into her wellness practice.
“I truly want to be the best dispensary, as far as being able to acknowledge you don’t just pick this up and go home,” she said. “We want consultation. We want documentation. We want to know what’s working.”
Neil and Cooper convinced City Council members to consider a work session to discuss an ordinance for medical establishments, but Mayor Geri McCaleb and Councilman Dennis Scott have voiced concern and opposition to the possibility.
The two women are not the only ones who want increased access to medical cannabis. The city’s precincts all voted in favor of recreational marijuana last year.
Neil hosts workshops to share information about medicinal marijuana for those with physical and mental illnesses. She said she’s always hearing from local residents who are curious about potential treatments.
“This is us,” Neil said. “We’re trying to make this happen.”