WASHINGTON: I have never used any illegal drugs. For one thing, I always have been too cheap to spend the money to get stoned. And I could never stomach the thought of using a substance that had passed through who knew how many grimy hands, adulterating it with who knew what. When I go to a restaurant I have to force myself not to think about the number of opportunities there are for my food to be sneezed on between the kitchen and my table; the idea of using unregulated drugs practically makes me break out in hives.
But this was before pain became my daily companion. The doctors cannot figure out why I continue to have what some days is mild pain and other days is so debilitating that it leaves me unable to do much more than writhe around trying to distract myself from the burning sensation that affects all of my limbs. One physician said he has seen other patients whose pain sensors seem to have gone into overdrive after a major trauma to their bodies. No one can tell me if this will fade with time or is a permanent residual effect of six surgeries in nine months.
I’ve tried all the conventional pain killers, but either they have been ineffective or there are unpleasant side effects. Morphine, for example, makes me hallucinate and vomit. Oxycodone results in headaches and loss of appetite. Finally, about three months ago, one of the doctors said, “I think it is time for you to consider using marijuana. Some of my patients have found that it relieves pain when no other drug will. While I used to be pretty skeptical of those claims, I have come to believe that it really does work for certain types of pain.” I walked out of his office with a prescription for medical marijuana and into a whole new world.
I am receiving treatment in Washington state, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1998, and recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012. Selling or distributing unlicensed marijuana remains illegal, but legal marijuana is easily accessible through one of the many pot shops located all over the state. Not every shop, however, is licensed to sell medical marijuana, which comes in forms not available for those just interested in recreational use.