Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Medical Marijuana

I have decided to give medical marijuana a go. Why the hell not? Even if it doesn’t help, I’m confident that experimenting with it won’t hurt, and either way I will be a more worldly person for having tried.

Maine is one of twenty-three states (and the District of Columbia) which allow the use of medical marijuana. Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia have gone a step further and approved the recreational use of marijuana by adults. I live in South Portland, Maine, and in November of this year we approved recreational use of marijuana within our city limits. Our neighbor, Portland, made the same move last year. Like gay marriage before it, this issue is approaching critical mass nationwide. The times, they are a changin’.

In our state, only a physician or a nurse practitioner can certify patients for the program. In general, traditional physicians shy away from this activity. However, there are medical practices set up specifically for certifying patients. I did a Google search and found Integr8 Health in nearby Falmouth. When I called to set up an appointment I learned that the fee would be $300, in advance, no matter the outcome of my evaluation.

These are the qualifying conditions in Maine:
  • Chronic Pain (Which has not responded to conventional therapy for more than 6 months)
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C (active form)
  • HIV
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Severe Muscle Spasms (Including MS and other diseases causing severe and persistent muscle spasms)
  • Severe Nausea
  • Dyskinetic and Spastic Movement Disorders (including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s Disease, and others)
Because of my MS muscle spasms, I was confident I would be approved.

When I arrived at Integr8 Health’s office I was greeted by a pleasant and chatty receptionist, who immediately put me at ease. She indicated that I would be seeing a nurse practitioner for my evaluation. After a short wait, the nurse came out and introduced herself, and led me to her office. I sat in my wheelchair, and she sat on her bouncy ball chair. Any worries I had about qualifying for the program were allayed when she shook her head and said, “Why have you waited so long to come see us?”

We had a nice discussion about the various ways that medical marijuana might benefit me. We spoke for almost half an hour. She then indicated that I would need final approval from their physician, because at the time nurse practitioners were not allowed to qualify patients – that has changed in just the past few months. I met with the physician briefly, and based on the report from his nurse practitioner he signed off on my certificate.

This certification allows me to cultivate up to six flowering plants, have a licensed grower cultivate plants for me, purchase up to five ounces per month from the dispensary, or any combination thereof. That’s a lot of weed, man.

The nearest dispensary to me, Wellness Connection of Maine, is only a couple of miles away, in downtown Portland. When I approached their entrance, inconspicuously located at the rear of a building, someone from inside noticed me and sprang into action, opening the two sets of double doors. I indicated that I would be a new customer, so I was introduced to an intake specialist. She was a pleasant young lady who, either through experience or training or both, knew a lot about medical marijuana. After I showed my certificate and proof of identification, I was buzzed through another set of security doors into the inner sanctum.

It was a comfortable setting. There were tables, chairs, and sofas. I was offered coffee, tea, or water. In Maine, consumption of medical marijuana is not allowed at dispensaries. The centerpiece of this room was a glass display counter, not unlike what you might find at a bakery. My guide sat down with me and explained the various strains of marijuana that they had in stock, and what the characteristics of each strain were. She explained the various delivery systems including smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting.

We decided that vaporizing made the most sense for me. Vaporized marijuana is healthier for your lungs than smoked marijuana. Also, vaporizers produce almost no odor. Of course they offered a vaporizer for sale at a discount price. “Sure,” I thought. “I’ll go home and price it on the internet and find out just how good their discount is.” At the end of my orientation I thanked my host and went home to do my research. I was surprised and pleased to find that the vaporizer they offered was highly rated, and I couldn’t beat their price, even on eBay. I returned to the dispensary and purchased their vaporizer. Then I approached the sales counter and decided to quiz the attendant about which strains I should purchase, as a double check on the young lady who had helped me earlier. His recommendations were identical. I went ahead and purchased a sample pack of three different strains of medical marijuana.

Once I have given this medicine a thorough trial, I’ll report back here on its effectiveness or lack thereof. After the way I had to sneak around when I dabbled in marijuana during college, my medical marijuana experience has thus far been nothing short of surreal.


  1. Really looking forward to hearing your take on your experience with this. I know that everyone responds differently to both FDA approved drugs and alternative therapies, so you can't automatically assume if it works for "this or that person" it will work for me as well. I really respect your honesty in reporting your personal experiences with various therapies and I feel that you articulate your feelings/experiences in a way that resonates with me. I hope there is an "upside" for you...a HUGE upside!

  2. Oh, thanks for writing about this Mitch. It's coming in Minnesota too, but only as capsules. I wasn't even going to consider it but now I can hang onto your coatails and get some insider info first, so, maybe........

  3. I just wrote a long comment about my experience with medical weed since last April, but it disappeared. I'll tryou again when I know it works.

  4. Ted, I'm sorry that you lost your comment. I know how frustrating that is. Please give it another try.

  5. Thank you very much for this informative blog. Looking forward to hearing that it does the trick for your symptoms!

  6. For me ingesting small amounts (1/16) of a brownie have been quite effective in reducing pain and spasticity.

  7. lovespups, as usual, I am going in to this experiment with low expectations. I'm not a pessimist, per se, but I find that it's much easier for me to accept the many failures I experience if I don't get my hopes up too high.

    Daphne, I'm only one data point. You're probably going to have to try it on your own if you want to see if it will help or not, but yes, of course, I will share what I learn :-)

    Anonymous, you are very welcome!

    Other anonymous, I am also dabbling in edibles. Thanks for the feedback.

  8. My neurologist, who told me last June "bring me the white card and I will sign it" recently told me that studies have shown that MJ is not effective. So, no signature from him. I don't have $300 dollars to spend on an evaluation. I guess I will just occasionally use the stuff I cn get from my brother -- but I know it's not the right kind to relieve spasms. It's too heady for that. Alas.

    I look forward to your experiences. :-)

  9. Being in California, I've had my MMJ card for four years, now. I have a few "breakthrough" spasms (usually at night, when I'm either too warm, or my bladder is full), but by and large, it helps tremendously with spasticity. I also highly recommend CBD oil -the cannabidiol derivative that won't get you high, but is very effective with spasticity neuropathic pain.

  10. Webster, that's very unfortunate about your neurologist. I think the jury is still out regarding how and to what extent MJ helps certain MS symptoms– not enough double blinded, placebo-controlled studies.

    Lisa, thanks for your feedback – very helpful.