Photo by Mark Braunstein

Since his 1990 accident, Mark Braunstein, an incomplete para, has lived alone in a house in the woods in Connecticut — doing his own housekeeping and laundry, growing a garden and cooking — while remaining self-sufficient as a writer and college librarian. But his passion for growing vegetables is not the only horticultural activity that is important to him. Braunstein has smoked half a gram of homegrown pot — one joint’s worth — every night after dinner since 1991. Without his nightly spliff, he says he wouldn’t be able to use his crutches to walk the trails around his home because spasms would pop his legs from his braces. He also wouldn’t be able to drive without hand controls because an errant leg spasm could send him careening off the road. “I have remained productive not despite marijuana,” he says, “but because of it.”

Braunstein never used pharmaceutical drugs in the 17 years before his accident and has refrained from using prescribed drugs since then. “I didn’t want to be a zombie.” Instead, he relied on his own high pain threshold while looking for a natural alternative.