“Marijuana is part of the drug culture. It needs to be part of the medical culture.” – Mura Bacon-Erikson
SPRINGFIELD – Mura Bacon-Erikson lives in chronic pain, suffering from ailments including polycystic ovary syndrome and Lyme disease. After trying every possible pain remedy for the past 27 years, she found one that works: smoking marijuana.
And on Friday, she became the first patient to receive a certification for medical marijuana at the newly-opened MariMed Consults at 1985 Main St.
She invited The Republican/MassLive.com to sit in on her appointment with Dr. David A. Getz.
For more than half an hour, Bacon-Erikson and Getz reviewed her medical history, dating back to her knee surgery at the age of 26, all the way to the “feminine pain” she suffers through now that she’s 53. Getz went over a questionnaire about her pain in extreme detail, clarifying several times that marijuana is not known to treat diseases, but symptoms like pain.
Her knee problems led to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, but “back then, it was considered all in my head. … I was put on all kinds of anti-inflammatories that caused stomach problems.”
So her doctor gave her more pills, which caused migraines. And they didn’t treat the insomnia caused by the intense pain of fibromyalgia.
Getz chose his words carefully, explaining repeatedly that the marijuana (he is forbidden to call it “weed” or any other street name) is known to have “more favorable” side effects than other pain treatments like oxycontin. Marijuana can cause dry mouth and sleepiness and Getz strongly discouraged inhaling the smoke. Instead, he recommended using a vaporizer or baking the marijuana into brownies or cookies.
“A 60-day supply is up to 10 ounces, but most people won’t need that,” said Getz. He insisted that anyone using marijuana for medical purposes take the lowest dosage possible to experience symptom relief.
“It’s amazing how it preserves function,” he said. “Get off the pain pills, get off the muscle relaxers and have the energy to mow the lawn … or go back to work part-time.”
Bacon-Erikson doesn’t work part-time: she owns a landscaping company. She said she will never go to work high, and will only use marijuana in the early morning or at night. In fact, she said she’s “not looking to get high” at all. She just doesn’t want to be in pain anymore.
To keep track of her progress, Getz said he wanted to see her again in six months and told her to check in with her primary care physician periodically in the meantime.
Because there are no dispensaries in Massachusetts yet, getting marijuana might be tricky. Bacon-Erilkson has three options: buy it illegally from a dealer; get it from a state-licensed “caregiver”; or grow it herself.
THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana that relieves pain, can be taken in pill form, but Getz said most of his patients find it doesn’t work as well as the plant.
In order to grow the plants, Bacon-Erikson needs to follow strict guidelines and be careful not to make a wrong move. She must grow only a small supply at one time (Getz recommended a maximum of six plants); it has to be done inside a room with four walls and a locking door; and she has to display her medical marijuana “card” on the outside of that door.
Bacon-Erikson has no intention of being sneaky.
“My intent is to walk right to the chief of police and show him the letter,” she said. “Marijuana is part of the drug culture. It needs to be part of the medical culture.”
Under legislation passed in 2012, any licensed physician in Massachusetts can recommend medicinal marijuana, and Getz had strong words for those in the medical community who still shun it as a treatment option.
“Until my colleagues enter the 21st century,” he said, “I’m glad to pick up the slack and provide their patients with the relief allowed by law.”
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