Pubdate: Fri, 02 Sep 2016
Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)
Copyright: 2016 The Billings Gazette
Author: Kati Wetch
Note: Wetch lives in Billings.


The new restrictions on medical marijuana going into effect this week 
will be devastating for patients. I know first-hand because I am a 
medical marijuana patient and have been for the past 10 years. 
Medical marijuana allows me to effectively treat my medical condition 
in a safer way and without the complications associated with the 
pharmaceuticals I would otherwise need to use.

I have an incurable disease, Arnold Chiari Malformation and 
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. These ailments typically would cause my brain 
to herniate into my spinal cord. I had my first brain surgery when I 
was 14 and have undergone multiple brain and spinal procedures that 
have saved my life but have also caused me severe pain.

Two titanium rods are attached to my skull and 28 screws and plates 
hold my head up off my spine. The hardware allows me to live a 
functioning life but I live every day with immense pain. In order to 
treat my chronic pain, I became the first medical marijuana patient 
in the state of Montana under the age of 18. I know what it means to 
be a sick person and I have found the only medicine that works for me 
is medical marijuana. It allows me to live a full life.

Last week, I traveled to Helena to stand with Bob Ream, who has 
called on Attorney General Tim Fox to delay enforcement of the new 
restrictions because of the devastating effect they will have on sick 
and dying people. I joined two other medical marijuana patients in 
delivering comments from more than 1,000 Montanans calling on the 
attorney general to minimize the impact these new restrictions will 
have on patients like me.

The new restrictions include limiting providers to only three 
patients, causing more than 12,000 Montanans to lose access to their 
medicine. I am one of thousands of Montanans that live with pain and 
deserve safe and legal access to medicine that offers relief. Without 
that access, patients face a choice of turning to the black market 
and becoming a criminal, moving to another state, or relying on 
dangerous and addictive opiate pain killers.

These new restrictions put Montanans at risk for becoming dependent 
on opioids. The Center for Disease Control has warned that our nation 
faces a prescription pain pill epidemic. Medical marijuana is far 
less addictive and has zero cases of death by overdose. It offers a 
safer alternative for pain patients, but that alternative is being 
taken away in Montana.

As a patient, I cannot imagine going back to narcotics. While they 
may dull pain, they are a Catch-22. If I take them, I have absolutely 
no appetite to eat due to nausea, and if I do not eat, I am unable to 
function and lead a fulfilling life as every person deserves. Pills 
drain my ambition and potential to live my life to the fullest.

In 2004, Montana voters made a clear statement, voting to create the 
first medical marijuana program with 62 percent support. But the 
Legislature went against the will of the voters passing these new 
restrictions into law. With the new restrictions going into effect, I 
am scared - scared for the almost three months of pain ahead of me 
without my medicine.

But there is hope. Montanans will be voting on I-182 in November. 
Voting yes on I-182 will create a workable, responsible and 
accountable medical marijuana program. I encourage all Montanans to 
turn out and vote yes on I-182 to ensure that I and all the other 
sick Montanans who benefit from medical marijuana have safe, legal 
access to their medicine.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom