Medical Marijuana Accessibility: Where is it?
As you can imagine, being disabled isn’t fun and can have quite a few drawbacks. One of those drawbacks that no one seems to be talking about is marijuana accessibility.
Medical marijuana is commonly prescribed for pain management. When you depend on medical marijuana and you have mobility issues, what happens? You have to figure out how to grind, load into your favorite smoking or vaping device, and get it to your mouth.
Not easy, right?
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Don’t worry, that’s normal (sadly). And maybe one day I will be able to fix that.
But for now, the next best thing I can do is start the conversation. This way, we as a community can brainstorm possible solutions to help ourselves become more independent.
Here we go…
What’s the Problem?
One thing I didn’t anticipate becoming a problem was the use of medical marijuana.
Access isn’t a problem, I live in a medical marijuana approved state. The problem isn’t acquiring the product, it’s the marijuana accessibility hurdle that we are nowhere near getting over.
When you physically can’t roll your own joint, and the buttons on your favorite device are too difficult to manipulate, how do you get your medicine?
There are edible products, of course. These are great if that mouth function is available to you, but for those who are reliant on feeding tubes, edibles are not a viable option.
I’ve looked high and low for devices that could accommodate my non-functioning hands and arms, but nothing seems to exist.
Let’s play along at home. Put your favorite vape (or cell phone if you don’t vape) down on the table. Now, pick it up without using your fingers. Tough, right?
Such as with everything else in my life, I’m dependent on my caregivers to help me use medical marijuana. Not wanting to inconvenience anyone with yet another request, I try to wait as long as possible before I ask for anything else. When I do, I try to lump my requests together so my caregivers only have to get up once.
Regardless of how it gets into me, or who administers it, I still need it for all the reasons above. That said, I would love to maintain my independence with all aspects of the process.
Puff, Puff, Pass
I didn’t start smoking weed until I got sick. No, not because I had any objection to it. But because I had other vices to keep me occupied. When you catch the slightest whiff that something might be wrong with you, it’s straight to Dr. Google.
What I found were mounds of studies, testimonials, and press releases touting consistent relief of the same symptoms I was experiencing, across a huge range of diseases.
Still living in New York City at this point, my now ex-wife had herself a respectable pot habit. Not knowing which end of a bong to hold, she taught me the basics. As infrequently as I smoked, the effects on symptoms was profound.
The leg cramps were less frequent, the fasciculations subsided, and the clouds of anxiety and depression lifted. What also relaxed were the tendons and muscles in my legs, making me prone to falls.
Medical marijuana is a big part of my ALS Treatment Protocol for a variety of reasons. It calms the most annoying symptoms such as spasticity, cramps, excess saliva, insomnia, panic attacks, and the latest, formula intolerance. The last of which I’ll spare you the gory details.
I refer to it as medical marijuana for a few reasons. I have a Medical Marijuana Program card and get my “medication” from a dispensary. New Jersey doesn’t offer recreational weed just yet, but by 2022 dispensaries should be able to sell it recreationally.
Earlier this year, New Jersey decriminalized possession under 6 ounces or less, which gives you plenty of wiggle room if you prefer to buy under the table. Unfortunately, I’m not cool enough to have a “guy” so I have to get the legal stuff.
Mechanics of Medical Marijuana
Weed is Weed, Right?
Sure, if you also believe that all coffee, cars, and people are the same. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch. First, weed today is more than triple the potency of the grass clippings our parents had.
Second, with the laws the way they are, you’re able to get a detailed analysis of what’s in the weed. No, I’m not referring to determining what other illicit substances your shit head friend decided to lace it with. I’m talking about all the THC’s and CBD’s the plant has.
Check out the label below from the OG Strawberry strain. You’ll notice there are two other components listed besides THC and CBD. THCa ( tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid found in the live plant.
There are hundreds of unique cannabinoids in a single plant, many of which have not yet been attributed to a particular benefit. For the purpose of this article, I’ll stick to the basics.
As the plant dries, through time or when you burn it, the acid component drops off through a process called decarboxylation. The same goes for CBDa and any other cannabinoid in the plant before de-carbonizing.
Why is this important? You ever see someone roll a joint and then eat it? Of course not. That’s because you need to heat the plant in order to get the effects from it.
So, we know what to look for on the label. Now what?
Unless you’ve got a guy, it’s time to get yourself a medical marijuana patient’s card. This is easy and doesn’t take too long. I outlined the steps for New Jersey below. Mileage may vary by state.
Getting the Card
This wasn’t a difficult process. ALS qualifies you for just about everything, nearly immediately, but that’s not anything to get excited about.
However, there are plenty of qualifying conditions that will earn you a medical marijuana card. Check your state website for official details.
If you live in NJ, you can check here: NJ Medical Marijuana Program
How to get a medical marijuana program card in NJ:
- Choose a qualifying condition
- Your doctor will certificate certify that you have the condition
- Provide information, ID, and payment
- Your name is added to your state’s registry
- Go get your weed!
There are also cards for caregivers which will allow them to pick up your medical marijuana order on your behalf. Super convenient if you are too high to get off the couch! Err… I mean, if you are too sick to move.
Now that you’ve got your license to chill, it’s time to get your medicine.
Getting the Weed
There are a growing number of dispensaries around New Jersey. I used to frequent the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, NJ, though their unreasonably high prices, poor selection, and less than desirable front desk staff has chased away many customers.
Fortunately, I have choices. Weedmaps a great resource for finding dispensaries near you. If you have a Medical Card, you don’t have to worry about whether they sell recreational products or not. If you do choose a dispensary with recreational sales, however, your Medical Card gets you cheaper prices and a fast pass to skip any lines.
When I go shopping, I look for a strain high in THC, and another high in CBD. I combine them for a 1:1 mix. The mix is more effective, for me than choosing a strain with both THC and CBD.
That goes for vaping and taking oil. Speaking of which, I am creating a step-by-step guide on how to make your own oil, the Breaking Bad way. Watch out, Walter White!
The Struggle is Real
All this is well and good, except I still can’t use a pen, pipe, or 6-foot bong. Anyone with dexterity issues knows what I’m talking about. So why is there no handicap usable vaping or smoking gear on the market today?
There are vape pens available that do not require you to press a button to smoke it, but that doesn’t solve the issue of getting it to your mouth.
Medical marijuana has come a long way, from the legality in the United States to the quality and variety. Who would have thought we would be able to go to the store and consult with a specialist on weed and leave with it legally? Not me!
However, the gap in accessibility needs to be filled. And soon. Perhaps with continued legalization, when it hits the federal level we can see some real changes.
If you have any recommendations, or solutions that have worked for you, please leave a comment below!