Cleared To Use MMJ, But Where To Get It? 
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Cleared To Use MMJ, But Where To Get It? 
Posted by CN Staff on March 31, 2014 at 08:43:06 PT
By William Weir, The Hartford Courant
Source: Hartford Courant
Connecticut -- Shortly after Connecticut's medical marijuana law took effect in November 2012, Robert Specht received his doctor's recommendation to use the drug. About a week after that, the state certified him to legally smoke marijuana. That didn't solve the problem of where to get it, though."They said, 'You're allowed to use your medicine  now good luck finding it,'" Specht said. "We're given legal license to possess cannabis, but we're not given any access to it. That's like telling your children they can stay up and watch this movie, but the power's out."
It's an improvement from the days when he risked arrest for possessing marijuana. But he's looking forward to buying from state-licensed dispensaries. The licenses are expected to be awarded within the next couple of weeks, and the dispensaries to be operating this summer. Until then, Specht said, getting marijuana is "catch-as-catch-can.""It's not something that runs in my circles," he said. "I'm 61 years old and I don't have children, so it's not easy for me to get my hands on."Specht, who lives in Hamden, said people often assume that marijuana is easy to get. That might be the case for some people, he said, but not for him.William Rubenstein, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees the state's medical marijuana program, said that even though dispensaries won't be up and running until the summer, it was the state's intent to allow patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes without the fear of arrest."It was clear in the testimony on the General Assembly on this bill that patients  very ill patients  were already finding ways to get marijuana even before the bill was passed, and they put themselves at risk of prosecution and penalty," he said. "A lot of these patients hadn't started using once the law sprung into effect."Specht said he has post-traumatic stress disorder (he said didn't want to discuss the origins of it), plus spinal damage caused by a fall down the stairs of his home. He opened a drawer of a dresser in his living room, filled with dozens of bottles of pills he was prescribed for pain. He no longer takes most of them."I used to be on 30 painkillers a day," he said, adding that this included 130 grams of OxyContin and up to 80 grams of Percocet a day."Now I'm on three [painkillers], and the cannabis has replaced about 27 of them," he said. He objects to people calling marijuana a "gateway drug.""I call it an exit drug," he said. "Many of us use it to get off the opiates that our doctors put us on."Finding a dealer is hard enough, he said. Maintaining one, though, is even tougher."Dealers come and go," he said. "They can get busted, or have a change in their living environment that's no longer conducive to selling."Adding to the difficulty, he said, is that everyone wants to communicate through texting. "I don't like to leave a written trail of anything," he said.Specht said he has had dealers leave Connecticut for one of the states out West where they could legally sell it.That makes it hard to get the particular strains of marijuana that he said are best for his condition. He prefers to use a strain known as indica at night because it helps him sleep, but during the day he generally uses another strain known as sativa.If he's traveling, Specht said, he uses edible forms of marijuana for convenience. At home, he uses a device known as a vaporizer that heats the chemicals in the plant enough to turn them into vapor.'Learning Curve'Although she advocated for the legalization of medical marijuana before the law was passed, Lindsey Beck, 29, of Voluntown, said she doesn't have much need for state-licensed dispensaries. She said that she, too, suffers from PTSD, which she attributed to an abusive relationship, and Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease. She treats her conditions with marijuana that she gets from the black market.Her sources are compassionate, she said, and sell at prices that are likely cheaper than what state dispensaries will charge. She also sees the medical marijuana industry as being too profit-driven."From the prices I've heard, and nothing's concrete, it's going to be cheaper to get it through illegal means," she said. "I don't like the idea of people profiting off my illnesses."She converts her marijuana from raw plant to an oil extraction that she then puts into capsules. It's time-consuming, she said, but the capsules are more effective than smoking. It's especially good for her Crohn's disease, she said, because it passes through the digestive tract.She said she hasn't gotten certified yet because of the cost of seeing a doctor, plus the $25 fee to the state. She is on disability, so that's a good portion of her monthly income.Another problem, she said, is that none of her regular doctors has signed up to certify patients for marijuana use. Although the state will not release the names of doctors who have registered to certify patients, Beck said, people have compiled lists of registered doctors and share them with those seeking certification.Beck said she has gotten the names of some doctors who certify patients. It means traveling to another side of the state, she said, but it will be worth it for the security, so she's considering it. As the mother of a 10-year-old boy, she doesn't want to get charged with marijuana possession.Tracey Gamer-Fanning, a brain cancer patient who lives in West Hartford, also received her certification shortly after the law was passed.And although it alleviates any worry that she might be arrested for having it, like Specht, it doesn't make getting it any easier. Gamer-Fanning said that, as a 43-year-old mother of five, she still hasn't gotten used to going to rooms filled with tie-dyed T-shirts and rock posters."It's awful  it's embarrassing," said Gamer-Fanning, president of the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance, an advocacy group. "It's every pathetic imagery I can think of  I'm going to the back of a McDonald's parking lot to get my medicine."She said other people come to her with their own questions about medical marijuana"It's everything from, 'My grandmother's never smoked pot, how can I help her?' to 'Where can I score some weed?'" she said.Her husband, Gregory Shimer, is certified as one of her caregivers. That allows him also to possess marijuana. If he gets pulled over and an officer finds marijuana on him, Shimer said that all he has to do is show the certificate, theoretically. Whether the police officer is up on the law is another question, he said."I don't know if that's happened, but it could happen," he said.Lt. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police, acknowledged that the new medical marijuana laws present a "learning curve." Certified or not, it's still illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of marijuana, but there are still legal nuances that everyone needs to get up to speed on. He added that the state police have begun training "in anticipation of medical marijuana as far as what's legal and what's not legal.""We're walking before we're running," he said. "Each segment of the law needs to be implemented carefully."Source: Hartford Courant (CT)Author: William Weir, The Hartford CourantPublished: March 31, 2014Copyright: 2014 The Hartford CourantContact: letters courant.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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