Brian Eberhart, assistant manager of Blum Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a former Marine, so it’s probably a safe bet to say that name-calling wouldn’t faze him. But there is one label he won’t allow anyone to pin on him.

“Stoner. I hate that word, and I hate that stereotype. It’s not at all accurate to my experience with cannabis, and it’s not the experiences I’ve seen with others, either,” he says. “I work with brilliant, hard-working people.”

Eberhart has a personal connection to cannabis, as many in the industry do.

While serving in the Marine Corps, he suffered a severe injury during a training exercise, which resulted in his leaving the service on a medical discharge. What hurt more than leaving his beloved Corps, though, was the painkiller addiction that followed.

In the course of his treatment for the injury, Eberhart became addicted to powerful opiates. “Doctors were unwilling to try any other options. It just seemed too easy: throw another prescription, another refill.” Through medical cannabis, Eberhart was able to overcome his addiction.

While opiates certainly have their place in medicine, it is indisputable that they carry an enormous addiction risk. Approximately 40 Americans die each day from opiate overdose, according to the CDC, which has advised physicians to avoid opiate therapy for chronic pain such as Eberhart’s.

“I was able to use cannabis to help wean me off of the painkillers, and now I use it to help with my ankle pain and to get through my day-to-day life,” Eberhart says. He reports that he has been able to completely stay off of any opiate pain medication. “I don’t need the Percocets they were giving me, which kept me completely numb. I just need something to help me dull the pain throughout the day, and cannabis has been perfect for it.”

Cannabis gave Eberhart more than relief from pain and escape from opiates. It also gave him a post-military career — and one that took off much faster than he expected. “The rapid growth of the industry and Blum’s commitment to promoting from within gave me chances I don’t think I would have in any other industry,” he says.

As he sought to re-enter the civilian workforce, following his medical discharge, Eberhart attended a career fair for the cannabis industry. He soon found himself working at Blum as a budtender and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming an assistant manager within eight months.

In addition to his work in the industry, Eberhart has leveraged his personal experience into advocacy efforts for full legalization in Nevada, particularly on behalf of other veterans.

The best part of his job, he says, is that he is able to provide patients with something he feels that he did not have: choice.

“I’ve seen how well it works for me,” he comments, “and I’ve seen how well it works for other people. People who use cannabis aren’t stoners. They’re you, they’re me, they’re everyday people with real lives and real goals who make a real difference.”