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Montel Williams on Tackling TBI, multiple sclerosis and medical marijuana

Television personality Montel Williams spoke to supporters of a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana in the state at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012.

Danny Johnston/AP

Montel Williams was once best known for his talk show, “The Montel Williams Show,” but in recent years the TV personality has become known as a vocal advocate for various causes, including veterans’ issues, multiple sclerosis awareness and medical marijuana. 

Williams is also now standing up for traumatic brain injury patients in a partnership with Tackling TBI. He talked to CBS News about why the cause is important to him and how he now feels about Donald Trump, whom he once declared a “clear and present danger.”

How did you get involved with Tackling TBI?

I‘m a board member for the Fisher House Foundation and deeply involved in vets’ issues and have been for the last eight years and very vocal about it. I was visiting troops in Walter Reed and around the country on a monthly basis, and almost every soldier I saw at Reed came from Afghanistan or Iraq, and despite the fact that they were in the hospital for an amputation, gun blast, explosion -- almost every one of them had suffered some form of concussion or TBI, so I got involved back then after learning about some research.

You need therapy for concussions and TBIs, and it’s been hit or miss -- there’s not that great of a treatment and we haven’t been doing enough trials. I want to make people aware of the fact that there is possibility and hope through clinical trials, so that’s the partnership with the Brain Injury Association of America and BrainInjuryTrial.com, so people have a place to go to.

Over 130 people die from some form of TBI every single day so we have this ticking time bomb in our society and we’re tackling other diseases, but we have over 300,000 soldiers from the last 10 years with a TBI, and there’s nothing people can do but hope could be here if we can get clinical trials.

[Editor’s note: In 2010, the Brain Injury Association of America estimated that there are 360,000 soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with TBIs

What can regular people do about TBIs?

I want to talk to boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers who know that family member, know that loved one who suffered a TBI and here’s what happened: They went to the hospital, went home and rested for three days when the doctor said a week and they were supposed to go to rehab and they didn’t. We have people who walked out of the ER and didn’t follow up with their doctor. I want to reach out to everyday people -- you have a family member, a loved one and you know they’re suffering from symptoms. You need to say to them, “You have residual effects from TBI and there’s a way to see if we can help.” The quality-of-life changes we can make can be astronomical.

You’ve been really vocal about having multiple sclerosis. What has been your experience?

I was diagnosed in 2000. I probably should have been diagnosed as early as 1980. I was misdiagnosed for 20 years -- they said it was exacerbation or gout. I had residual symptoms and pain in my feet, general nausea, limited issues with my gait. I had 15 symptoms I was living with every single day and trying to cope with it and searching for everything that could lessen my symptoms, and now I’ve been able to bring them down, but I continue to work at it every day. I’m on all different kinds of regiments that impact my illness, and every time I learn something I try to share it with the public.

You also launched your own line of marijuana products. What made you decide to do that?

I’ve been involved in the cannabis and marijuana industry tangentially or directly for the last 16 years. The knowledge base is strong enough to make a recommendation -- a doctor can make a plant-based recommendation called marijuana. Why don’t people accept that?

I’m hoping people who have been providing cannabis really for medical means are getting the best product on the market. It’s time now to accept and create a product that’s medically based and the highest -- this isn’t a real word but -- pharmaceutical-ized standard possible. We work with BAS lab in Berkeley, the only certified marijuana lab in the entire state of California, and anyone who, like Montel, needs that medicine, can trust the product they’re getting from me has been produced at the highest standard possible for a medical product.

You were vocal in your stance against Trump. How do you feel now?

You know, rather than saying being against him, I just stood up, for my entire life, and that’s what I’m doing right now. We need to figure out the best way to help the president-elect help this country accomplish and move forward. There’s nothing else to think. 

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    Andrea is an entertainment producer at CBSNews.com