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Another Voice: A patient's view of medical marijuana's Catch-22

By Pat Russell

On March 12, The News ran an excellent piece on how the medical marijuana industry in our area is dying before it has a chance to even get off the ground. The growers aren’t making any money because there aren’t enough customers.

Here, then, is yet another side from a forgotten party in this quagmire – the patient.
I have a condition known as essential tremor – cause unknown, cure unknown – which affects my hands when doing simple tasks, making it impossible to even write my name. Necessary tasks like brushing my teeth, eating and zipping my coat are becoming an increasing challenge.

Once an artist, I no longer can wield a paintbrush or even color with my grandchildren.

I began seeing a neurologist several years ago and started treatment with medications standard for this condition, most of which I found to be ineffective and intolerable. The side effects are worse than the tremors themselves.

And, you can’t simply stop the drugs. You must slowly wean off each one before you can try the next one. I feel like I’m ingesting poison when I take them.

Then I began reading about how effective medical marijuana has been shown to be for this condition with little or no side effects! I excitedly called my neurologist to ask if this was one of my options, and if so, I wanted to try it, already envisioning getting my life back.

As much as she was sure it would help me, she explained that you must have a secondary condition along with your primary condition to qualify for medical marijuana treatment. Luckily (or unluckily?) for me, I don’t have any of the “required” secondary conditions.

So, the carrot is dangled in front of me but I can’t quite get at it. Unfortunately, this is true not only for my condition, but for other more debilitating conditions as well, such as Parkinson’s.

I contacted my state senator in an attempt to get an answer as to why I must have a secondary condition to use this drug when my primary condition warrants it.

His representative responded very quickly, and told me the Legislature passed the law legalizing medical marijuana but the application was left up to the “experts” at the New York State Health Department.

I then contacted the Health Department and I was told that it applies the law exactly as it was written by the Legislature.

So, I was welcomed to the Catch-22 world of New York State government where it appears no one wants to take ownership of this nonsensical law. Apparently there is no one who can answer my question.

Ironically, two years ago when I had shingles, I was prescribed hydrocodone – a nasty drug, a controlled substance, a narcotic, if I’m not mistaken. It was standard procedure with no questions asked, no secondary condition required.

Go figure. I sure can’t.

Pat Russell, of Boston, suffers from a neurological disorder.

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