Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Weed Stigma

Today is 4/20. I didn't even realize it until I got to the marijuana dispensary in a nearby city. The physical price for recreational marijuana today was 45 minutes waiting in the rain. 

That wasn't my price though. I was waived to the front of the parking lot next to the entrance. Then ushered to the sparse line for the medical marijuana patients. I showed my medical ID card and my driver's license and was directed to the short line with my fellow patients.

There are comfy chairs there in our line. Along with several of us with canes. We suffer from lots of things: chronic back pain, nausea from cancer treatments, PTSD. I'm there for the pain caused by ME/CFS and Dysautonomia. 

I've been going to this particular dispensary for over a year. The people who work with us patients at this dispensary are helpful and empathetic. I often wonder if they go through sensitivity training before stepping behind that counter. They are so very kind.

The people in the recreational line laugh together. And stand. There are no comfy chairs for them. I wonder if they really understand what we deal with or if they think we are just lucky to not have the long wait. 

When I got my medical id card last year it was a last resort. The pain in my hands and back and especially my legs was past the point of Aleve and a heating pad. I had gotten to the point where I would recline with my feet up on the couch at night and just moan. Not every night, but most nights. The pain made it hard for me to fall asleep and stay asleep. And when you need 12ish hours of sleep each night just to feel a normal state of exhaustion, this was making the exhaustion level rise to a scary point. I still work part-time and needed that normal level of exhaustion in order to function.

When I got my card I hid that fact from all but close friends and family. I wouldn't talk about it at work except to a couple of close coworkers. When I applied for a job in another town, I expected to not get the job because I knew I would fail the drug test. And since weed is not legal federally, I read that the state-level legality wouldn't matter to most employers. 

Well, I did fail the drug test but I still got the job. I was honest and upfront and HR said that it wouldn't be a barrier to employment. 

So once I passed that hurdle I started thinking about how I need to not keep quiet about my marijuana use. If there is a stigma, I should be part of destigmatizing it and not hide from my marijuana use.

I could have gone on opioids. My doctor probably would have approved it. But I didn't want the addiction that came with it. I feared that some day a cure would be found and I'd be so hooked on oxycontin that it would be too late to matter.

Medical marijuana is more potent than recreational marijuana. Kind of like how a prescription anti-inflammatory is more powerful than an OTC one. It also comes in many different forms because a tincture might work for one person but edibles might work for another. The cannabis strains tend to be more varied as well.

I tried several types before settling on a THC/CBD mix vape oil. I only use it at night when I'm in my pjs. Driving under the influence of THC is not something I would do. 

The effects of the marijuana wears off in a matter of hours when I am sound asleep already. 

To say that I have no more nights of lying on the sofa moaning in pain would be a lie. I still have breakthrough pain and/or a really rough day where it takes more THC than I am willing to ingest to make it all go away. But even then, the THC at least soothes my nervous system so that I'm not freaking out about it.

It is a godsend to me and so many people that I meet in line. Some of us can work part-time because of it. Some of us can eat now because certain strains help with the nausea. Some of us can finally sleep after being in constant pain for years.  

And it's not addictive OR harmful to an adult's body including our brains. 

So if you are thinking that you could use medical marijuana for whatever ails you, it's easy to get.
    1) Get to a cannabis doctor and get your "prescription". They will get the process going with the state.
      2) Follow the doctor's office instructions to register with the state.
    3) Once you receive your id, go to your local dispensary and talk to the lovely people there about your condition and your other meds and your concerns and they will help you find the right thing for you.
    4) If you find you are trying different types of strains or forms (edible, oil, leaf, etc.) because "nothing" is working, stay with it. I had to go through edibles and tinctures before I found something that worked. 
    5) Don't be afraid to try THC. When I started, I would only use CBD because I was afraid of the THC high which made me very paranoid when I tried weed in college. So the nice people at the dispensary talked me into trying a THC/CBD blend as vape oil and it is what saved me. 
    6) CBD is not a miracle drug for everyone. I keep reading on my support groups that people have been disappointed with CBD once they finally spent a fortune and tried it. I tell them not to be afraid of the THC. It's all about whatever works.

It costs money to see the doctor ($200/yr in Massachusetts), the state id card ($50/yr in MA), and the vape oil I use ($50/month). I feel very lucky to be able to afford it since (again, it's not federally approved) it is not covered by health insurance. 

The big drug companies should be worried if people like me are getting this kind of benefit out of a drug that is not addictive, is all-natural, has no side effects, and actually works. It is probably a big reason why it is not federally approved yet. 

I think of all the bodies, and families, and careers that have been destroyed by prescription painkillers and alcohol (which is socially acceptable and readily available). And then I look at how few lives are adversely affected by marijuana. It makes no sense to me that marijuana is not legal. It is not a gateway drug. I know people who work with the addicted and no one goes to heroin because they started smoking weed. 

There should be no shame in using marijuana for any reason. But especially if you are a medical user. I only hope that the stigma dissolves over generations.