This is an interview with a friend who lives in Vermont, a state that was part of the forefront in allowing prescription use of Medical Marijuana. My friend recently began using Medical Marijuana, which sometimes will be referred to in this article as MMJ. As you read this personal account regarding the prescribed use of Medical Marijuana, my hope is to remove some of the stigmas still associated with it. The following is an interview with my friend and is a true and factual account. All answers presented in this interview are strictly from my friend and have not been edited.
Briefly detail the legal guidelines in Vermont for the use of MMJ
The qualifications to receive a prescription for MMJ, you need to have any of the following health conditions: Cancer, AIDS, Chronic Pain, debilitating weight loss condition, nausea Mental Health Conditions are not covered under the current guidelines. It’s an effective treatment for Bipolar Moods [Mania, Hypomania & Depression], Anxiety, and Sleep disorder [Insomnia], PTSD. It’s effective for Mental Clarity, Creativity, and Focus. Excellent site for further information is http://medicalmarijuana.com/ Next, your doctor needs to feel you quality and they need to have been treating you for over 6 months. There are forms to fill out by your doctor. You need to fill out forms, once your Doctor has started the process. My caregiver filled out my forms. Unable to myself, medical reasons. You need a photo for a photo ID. Application Form needs to be notarized. You need to choose a dispensary from the ones mentioned on the forms. Once forms are filled out, you need to collect everything they ask you to send with application, including the non-refundable $50.00 annual fee for your MMJ License. Took about two weeks to receive License, but just filling out the forms and submitting everything is not a guarantee you will receive a license. You can appeal within 7 days if denied. Rules on purchasing and possessing MMJ are fairly strict, so be careful. Rules for Possession of MMJ: You need a locked box to contain your MMJ whenever you are transporting it. But you may not take it out of the state of Vermont. You cannot smoke it in your car, at work, in public. You cannot drive while under the influence. You cannot share your MMJ meds with anyone else. You are allowed 2 ounces of marijuana per month. If you grow it, you can have 2 full grown plants and 7 immature plants. Note to remember, if you grow it in Vermont, you cannot purchase MMJ from the dispensary. When you go to the dispensary to purchase your monthly supply, if someone accompanies you and they are not a licensed caregiver or do not have a license, they will not be admitted. This is for legal purposes. Do not under any circumstances after purchasing your MMJ go out into the parking lot and light up.
Please discuss in whatever detail makes you comfortable, the routes that qualified you to be a user of MMJ It started with Cancer. I was unable to eat or keep liquids down and losing weight rapidly. The doctors put me on Marinol, a chemically produced THC, the potent part of the MMJ plant. That helped me be able to keep down the minimum of food sources. My appetite never recovered. Recently my doctor discovered there had been complications with my Cancer surgery. It caused side effects, which made me became seriously ill. Nausea. No appetite. An inability to taste food. Not wanting to eat or remember to eat. I have been in serious car crashes. I suffer from chronic pain from several broken legs and ankle bones from 2 of the accidents and a broken neck in a third. This was in one year. I have experienced other car crashes from the time I was a child. The culmination of all of the accidents have left me in constant pain, which at times reach level 10. I have received spinal epidurals, surgeries to correct the broken bones. I developed a limp and lost some mobility in one of my ankles. In a few weeks, I am due for a neck spinal epidural. I have had a disc removed from my neck. I have arthritis growing in my neck. It causes pain to travel across my right shoulder down my arm and into my right hand. I have Chronic Pain throw-out my entire body. I get extreme abdominal cramps, the pain brings tears to my eyes. It feels unbearable. I have extreme back pain. I have had spinal epidurals. I have had pain management injections in several areas of my back. I have an extreme pain that pierces my back at the level of the solar plexus and the pain travels straight through the front of my body as if a sword were being thrust through me. I am unable to walk up stairs. Need knee replacement surgery. I have untreatable macular degeneration. I have Bipolar. Technically, Vermont’s Program of MMJ does not treat for Bipolar but it doesn’t prevent you from using the MMJ as treatment. It is working on stabilizing my moods. I couldn’t’ sleep. Now with MMJ I can.
Once you were deemed eligible for Medical Marijuana, did you encounter obstacles in obtaining it from a dispensary?
When I received my MMJ License in the mail, I began investigating where I would have to travel and what kind of MMJ was available. How would I find out the location? I went online and became very frustrated. There wasn’t a web page for the dispensary I ended up using. A new dispensary which is going to be closer, was in the process of going through the requirements to become the next dispensary to open its doors. I finally wrote an email to the person connected with the government end of things to get any information available. I heard right back the next day with a phone number. But before I received the number, I tried another number I eventually found online. I got a voicemail with no message, so I wasn’t sure who I would be leaving a message for. I left one anyway. Next day with the new number, I called and talked to the person from our dispensary. We had the greatest and easiest conversation. I admitted I had self-medicated until 1990. It was in that year I stopped smoking regular pot. She told me it was actually a plus that I knew about MMJ. How to use it. To know what to expect. Except with MMJ it is all different. The strains have none of the poisons from the illegal marketplace. MMJ is all organic. Hybrid. Clean. Gives one a smooth, mellow feeling after the initial hit time. Once connected with our dispensary, I received instructions on where they were located. A long distance on the Super Highway. Some of the journey is through quaint small towns. It is a half day journey. It is just outside a wonderful town. I told my partner I would love to stop next time and look around. They have an Irish bar and restaurant. I thought we could check it out and maybe sit down and have a meal. This is a positive thing for me, to want to be around people. I had no problems at all obtaining the MMJ once the initial connection had been made. I received my license and less than 5 days later I had 1/3 of my month’s supply of MMJ. My partner is applying to be my caretaker. This enables her to grow MMJ if so desired. It, also, allows her to enter into the purchasing area for all the products of MMJ. Most importantly, if I am unable to go to the dispensary myself, my partner will be able to acquire what I need without my presence needing to be there. I should note, Vermont only began selecting dispensaries and setting them up this past June 2013. They will only have 4 dispensaries in the whole state. I live next to a large town with a Cancer Center, so I am surprised they didn’t choose to have a dispensary in this area, knowing the need would be in large numbers. My Herbalist told me a great many of her patients are from my area, which is why she wants to get permission to do deliveries. I am very delighted with the easy rapport I have with my MMJ Herbalist. She answered all my questions, clearly and in detail. Once the connection was made, everything has run smoothly. You need to make an appointment. My herbalist is very accessible and no problems arose.
In what ways did the dispensary help you to find the right MMJ for your needs?
My Herbalist is knowledgeable and helpful. We talked. I explained my needs specifically. No hiding symptoms or ailments. I felt relaxed and trusted her to help me. She did just that. We talked about what each strain was capable of doing. She recommended a startup group of different strains of MMJ. Sativa and Indica are the two groups. We went home with 3 types of both the Sativa and the Indica. She explained about MMJ in food. I wanted to buy a brownie, but my herbalist felt the content would be too potent for a beginner on using MMJ. I have a problem going to new locations and meeting new people. On the phone and in person she put us right at ease. My partner is applying to serve as my caregiver. She will take care of the financial aspects. My Herbalist was helpful coordinating what I needed in quantity, and to keep it within a budget. From what I have used already, we will need to make the long trip every 2 ½ months. My Herbalist is trying to work out with the state of Vermont, to be able to deliver to her patients. I would then put in my order and have it delivered within a reasonable time, right to my door. Great for the nerves. If you think about the reasons people are using MMJ, it makes good sense to have a delivery service. Eventually, there will be a sliding scale in the cost. But presently, it is not something my dispensary is able to do.
What is the cost factor and how did that impact you relative to your need?
At first the cost seemed like it would be enormous. It could be I am a frugal MMJ smoker but I feel what I thought would be a month’s supply will actually last for 2 ½ months. So that divides the cost per month to a manageable amount financially. I am not certain but I think the cost per gram or for any of the food items is the same for most, if not all MMJ locations. If so, it cost before tax $12.50 per gram. There are 28 grams in an ounce. I purchased a variety of MMJ strains to check out what works the best for me. This sampling came to 6 different strains. 3.5 grams Sativa Afghan Kush 1 gram Sativa Train Wreck 1 gram Sativa Critical Jack. 3.5 grams Indica Double Blueberry 1 gram Indica Blueberry 1 gram Indica Sensi Star. Sativa is for energy, focus, appetite, depression, creativity, a daytime MMJ mostly. Indica is for calming, relieving pain, relaxing muscles, anxiety, panic, sleep. The two Sativa & Indica can have duel purposes. I only need one hit each time. A small amount lasts. I feel relaxed for hours. I haven’t felt relaxed ever in my life except when I have smoked MMJ. The monetary impact was, I needed MMJ to keep me alive. It seemed to be the last resort to try and turn around my rapid decline in health. I was losing weight. I couldn’t eat or sleep. The money could not be a reason for my not being able to get MMJ. The way I use it, it is affordable. My supply is abundant. When you need something to stay alive, you get that something. When I saw her, my Doctor, it slipped, but I called the MMJ, “Miracle Marijuana.” My MMJ reminds me of the bottle of Sherry in the Cary Grant film Bishop’s Wife, it keeps refilling itself.
Is there a support system available to you should you encounter any problems either using MMJ or obtaining it?
The answer to obtaining MMJ, I feel my Herbalist is easy to talk to and a good source when I have a question I can’t find any other place. She’s helpful in directing me to what I need to smoke to relieve my symptoms I have my psychotherapist, my partner, my PCP, my special friend and I write about everything I feel.. I’m always working on my blog which helps me through almost anything. I have many connections where I listen to others. I try to reach out to make all feel better. I have good people in my life. I feel better with MMJ. It helps make me physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually feel better. I feel more connected. More able to reach out to people I care about and love. It enables me to feel more comfortable because I am not feeling ill 100% of the time. It makes it easier for me to communicate. I feel more open and less fear. It relaxes me and is opening up my feelings. The way I feel makes me feel more able to turn to others for support and to give support. I am finally finding relief.
Can you describe how Medical Marijuana has helped you thus far and has it met your expectations?
The first night, I put a pinch of MMJ in a pipe and lit up. I forgot how to light it. It took two attempts and finally I received two lungs full of smoke. I was using Indica to help me to relax. My first experience with MMJ was a delightful surprise. My partner kept asking me how I felt. All I could say, “I don’t feel any pain. I don’t feel anxious, I don’t feel nausea”. I felt good. Couldn’t remember the last time. My partner asked if I was hungry. I couldn’t exactly answer that question. I had forgotten what it feels like to be hungry or to want food. I did start to say I could probably eat a turkey burger with cheese and maybe some French fries. That may sound simple to most people but for me to even want something to eat was amazing. My partner made me a turkey burger & fries. I took the plate and rested it on my lap. My Amazon Parrot loves what I was about to try to eat Saki took the first bite. She liked it. It was my turn. I took a bite and another bite and one French fry after another. I am neat when I eat. I couldn’t consume the food fast enough. Tomato juice and ketchup was dripping on my face. No way do I eat that way. The turkey burger with cheese on toast no crust and French Fries tasted like the first meal I have ever eaten in my life. I enjoyed food. A miracle. This happened because my Primary Care Doctor and Psychotherapist helped me feel better. They both felt prescribing MMJ was the perfect solution to help turn my health around and to start helping me to heal. No other meds made me feel good. Over time they were making me feel sicker. I feel promise with MMJ. My life is on a path I never felt I would find. It is in a good place and heading into promising tomorrows I didn’t think I was going to have.
What, if any, are the negative aspects of taking MMJ?
I haven’t encountered any negative aspects of taking MMJ. Travel time is over 3 hour roundtrip. The only real negative aspects are the need to create the availability of dispensaries in closer proximity to the patients who receive MMJ. My insurance covers the cost of all my pharma medications, I have found in a vast majority of them, side effects were harmful to my health and still affect my health in a harmful way. These are covered by insurance. A negative aspect was taking Pharma’s chemical psych medications, instead of having MMJ available to me. The Pharma psych meds caused me to have seizures, to pass out, to have brain fog, an inability to concentrate, balance problems, weight gain creating diabetes, loss of short term memory and many more side effects. With MMJ there are no negative side effects. There are positive effects. I get a good night’s sleep. Slowly discovering food I can eat if I take a hit of MMJ. I do forget to eat. I am able to concentrate. My ability to think clearly and write has increased profoundly. The pain levels come down when I am in the middle of the effects of MMJ. The negative aspect here is, my insurance covers the cost of my Pharma meds but does not cover MMJ. MMJ is expensive but I do NEED MMJ, so the expense has to be afforded. Someday, the New Health Care System will cover MMJ .
Does your Primary Care Physician monitor your progress and is there a time limit on renewal of your MMJ prescription?
Yes, my PCP Doc is monitoring the effects. My psychotherapist is going to be helping me make the MMJ successful in treating all of my issues. MMJ has already effected my stress and health issues. Still figuring out which strains of MMJ works best I see my PCP once a month and my psychotherapist twice a week. I have tests regularly through the hospital and the Cancer Center. My oncologist will also be aware of my treatment with MMJ. I see him every 4 months, and receive B-12 shots every two months, along with blood work every 4 months through the Cancer Center. I cannot produce my own blood adequately since my chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I cannot walk into my kitchen without getting sick to my stomach. These are some things my PCP and Psychotherapist are monitoring.
Finally, how would you respond to those who believe that the use of Medical Marijuana will lead to addiction?
I am actually careful when I smoke MMJ. It’s important to me to know my motives are to help me to feel physically better after using it. Its use for me is to release and relieve pain, nausea, to set off my non-existing appetite and a long list of other medical uses for which I need MMJ. I have never found any cravings or withdrawal from MMJ. It can be stopped without side effects, even if you are using it for recreational reasons. If your reasons for using MMJ are to treat chronic conditions, Pain, AIDS, Cancer, Panic Attacks, Anxiety, Insomnia, No Appetite, Anorexia, the list is extensive. Where does the addiction come in with MMJ? It helps give relief. Using it is necessary. There isn’t a reason for it to become Addicting. Most importantly, Marijuana has never been a drug with addictive qualities. When you think in terms of using it as a medication, the reasons for using MMJ is related to ailments that in some cases are not going to go away. It makes you feel able to eat, if only for a moment. Always the physical reasons return and need further treatment. It does not inhibit any abilities. One is required not to drive while under the influence of MMJ but that is the only thing one is unable to do within their own capacities and limitations. In my experience, I have never felt any addictive qualities to MJ or MMJ. So, I would say to stop worrying about that rumor coming from those who have their reasons to prevent MJ or MMJ made available to those in need. It is selfish and financially related. The rumor that MJ or MMJ is addictive is false. It holds a means to comfort those who are ill. It gives one comfort when nothing else does. Everybody is dying but some know it will probably be sooner than they would like it to be. Why should someone still alive not be able to be made to feel comfortable before they die? And there is nothing wrong with wanting the feeling MMJ creates. It lifts you up and makes you feel good.