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Sober living home likely first in Utah to use medical cannabis to aid addiction recovery

Addicted Utah:{ }Sober living home likely first in Utah to use medical cannabis to aid addiction recovery (Photo: KUTV)

A brand new concept is taking shape in the addiction recovery world.

Men's Tribal House is a sober living home where recently incarcerated people use medical cannabis to help in their recovery. It's believed to be the first such sober home in Utah to try this method.

"I would either be in prison or I would be dead, and I know for a fact," said Joshua Kyle Liberator, who is in recovery.

He lives at and manages Men's Tribal House after struggling with a heroin addiction for 20 years.

My mom always told me that every night she would wait for that phone call of me overdosing," Liberator said.

He now has a legal card that allows him to use medical cannabis to help him stay in recovery.

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"Instead of me going out and picking up a needle and sticking it in my arm, I pick up a vaporizer or I pick up a cartridge or a I pop a gummy in my mouth," he said. "It gets me through the day."

Shane Ericksen, who owns Men's Tribal House, says medical cannabis maintenance has proven to be a harm reduction tool to treat things like chronic pain and PTSD.

It's a culture of no shame, no judgment," he said. "It's kind of like a biker bar meets a hippie commune. You know, all meshed together."

A doctor assess every new resident to see if they need a cannabis treatment plan. Roughly half of the 27-bed home use it and must get their medicine from a medical cannabis pharmacy.

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Ericksen says it calms the body and mind, and prevents relapse — especially when hard times come up.

"They're not going to run down the block and get heroin," Ericksen said.

He says he is not naive to the fact that they support the use of a mind-altering substance at a sober home.

"At the beginning, I was kind of a pariah in the addiction recovery industry here in Utah. 'Why are you giving cannabis to drug addicts?'" Ericksen reflected. "They didn't understand, and they were fearful of it."

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It's illegal to light cannabis on fire in Utah. The medicine is tracked, and the home has a license to operate this way from the Department of Human Services.

"All I think I'm doing is not discriminating against somebody's right to use medical cannabis," said Ericksen.

Which Liberator says is the one thing that could save his life; and his mom no longer has to dread that phone call.

Now she says she can sleep at night; now she has her son back," he said.

Ericksen says Men’s Tribal House gets a fair number of parolees as residents from the Utah Department of Corrections.

Kaitlyn Felsted, a DOC spokeswoman, says they do not track specific referral numbers to privately operated facilities, adding, "we recommend parolees or their family members to search the DHS licensing website if they are in need of this type of service."

For more recovery resources you can visit the Addicted Utah resource page.