Medical marijuana and me: the path to healing now that the cannabis flower is legal in Louisiana

Have you ever done an intense workout after not working out for a very long time? I mean run a marathon without training intense – When you are done your body is temporarily running on adrenaline, but the morning after you are riddled with soreness, stiff muscles, and unimaginable aches and pains. Compound these feelings with headache, flu-like fatigue, mental fogginess, anxiety, and gastrointestinal issues, such as gas, bloat, and constipation… OH and my favorite INSOMNIA,  just to name a few.  Well, my friend, this is the only way I can help you visualize the pain, agony, and discomfort of my new best friend fibromyalgia. 

The Why?

I’ve had those symptoms off and on most of my life, initially isolated, then in my thirties they started to appear compounded. You can find a reason for the occasional tension headache or a sleepless night, but when you are thrown into a whirlwind of symptoms that keep sending you to the doctor because you are almost sure you have cancer or endometriosis, or maybe you are dying… yes it gets that extreme.  Every day I had to drag myself out of bed, I was drinking four or five cups of coffee and the occasional Coke throughout the day just to stay alert. I would have at least two Tylenol or a BC to relieve headaches and other body pains with minimal relief. I was always tired, even if I went to bed on time. And, I would often be overwhelmed by the simplest task.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic 2020, I got desperate. The stress of the unknown, coupled with everyday life just sent my body into a fibromyalgia frenzy. It became unbearable. I became depressed. I decided to take a risk: I was going to get a Medical Marijuana Recommendation. (To get access to medical marijuana in Louisiana, you need to have a licensed Louisiana physician evaluate you and provide you with a recommendation. The Recommendation paperwork is sent to one of the Licensed Pharmacies in Louisiana where medical marijuana is dispensed.)


The What?

I had been in the “know” of the marijuana movement in Louisiana for a while. I remember joining a Facebook group about ten years ago. They would send the latest info, encourage sending letters to your senators, and had several protests like gatherings around legalization. I was never a big smoker in college, or adulthood, probably from the horrible experiences of having low tolerance and freaking out the few times I tried it. As an adult, I became an occasional “closeted” consumer to help calm my anxiety, fatigue, and tension pain. The taboo and shame surrounding the subject were still very real. We were taught marijuana is a “gateway drug”, getting “high” was sinful in nature, and only people in the “street life” smoked weed. 

I was none of this. I was a wife, a mother, a professional, and a Christian. Therefore, I quickly learned to give myself boundaries for being a closeted marijuana consumer. That is, never partake in public, never partake socially, and never partake before you have somewhere to go. 


The When

When the original medical marijuana legalization came to fruition in Louisiana, it was VERY strict; basically, you had to be dying or going to die in the near future to be eligible for the required doctor’s recommendation, and there were only a handful of doctors who were either eligible or even willing to provide said recommendation. There was still a sense of taboo and shame in even trying to navigate the requirements. Also, there wasn’t a lot of detailed information provided to the public. Where do I start? Who do I ask? If I ask my doctor will they think I have addiction issues? Will this go down in some kind of permanent record? Will I be considered a bad mother? The list of questions goes on. 

I remember passing a billboard on I-12 every morning that announced medical marijuana eligibility including any debilitating illness. It was around the time I had received an official fibromyalgia diagnosis and my symptoms kept getting harder and harder to bear with the added stress of the pandemic. I was taking a lot of medication with unpleasant side effects and at times I was not able to function at all. I was a complete mess. I decided to research more into the new eligibility requirements to see if medicinal use would be an option for me. The research led me to the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

The How 

Even after the extra research, there was still a lingering sense of imposter syndrome; which is common among those with  chronic illnesses, especially invisible ones. Maybe the doctor won’t believe my pain. What if they think I just want to get high? What if this goes on my medical record? I decided to be brave. I researched a few clinics and picked one that had good reviews.

I was able to get a same-day virtual appointment. That calmed my nerves a little as I didn’t have to be denied or judged in person, but I was still apprehensive as I awaited the appointment time. I received an email to fill out new patient info which asked the normal questions from any doctor’s office about preexisting conditions and family history. Then it was time to virtually meet the cannabis gatekeeper. Honestly, as the session starts, I’m still nervous, still waiting to be judged, still thinking the doctor will think I’m some kind of drug addict, but it was quite different. He comes onto the video feed, introduces himself, takes care of the housekeeping as he collected the $200 initial consultation fee. He was very approachable, he wanted to hear about my pain and actually was in agreement that he thought this would really help. Oh the relief, I can feel my nerves ease.

Vapor

It’s only medicine not the gateway drug of my mother’s era. I also think it helped that I was able to provide documentation from my rheumatologist regarding my condition as I explained that other medicines were not giving the total relief I needed. He recommended that I start slowly with using THC-infused tinctures, then tapper higher quantities as needed. As we finish up the appt. he says he would fax over the recommendation to the Baton Rouge pharmacy (dispenserary) and I can receive medication the same day if I get there before closing. To my surprise, there was no judging, there was no ah-ha gotcha moment. There was such a relief, it was so easy.


There is a benefit to obtaining a recommendation for medicinal marijuana for debilitating illnesses. As a closeted consumer, I was purchasing and consuming flower marijuana illegally. Although I was very careful about whom I received it from,  there was still a level of risk in product contamination and other illegal activity with the seller. When you obtain possession legally you eliminate these risks. You not only know exactly what you are obtaining but you are also advised on the best medication for your condition and parameters for consumption.

The User

@blackgirl_realpain

I have now been a medicinal marijuana user for two years including CBD and it has worked wonders on managing my pain, fatigue, and anxiety issues as a supplement to my other medication regimen. When you live with a debilitating chronic condition the bad days often outweigh the good. During my constant fibromyalgia flares, I had become less patient, more irritable and cranky, and less happy and energetic.  

This new year brought new options for marijunna patients with the legalization of cannabis flower; it provides more options in choosing our delivery method. Tinctures and edibles tend to be more potent, but they do not enter your system very quickly and often have a sneak up effect. In my opinion these are better suited for home use particularly at bedtime. Topicals are great for joint pain and muscular ailments, but does nothing for symptoms such as fatigue. When Southern University came out with their vape oil product I quickly visited the pharmacy. I knew this would be a great option for me as it mirrored my traditional delivery method before becoming an official patient. Inhalation through a vape or smoking a marijunna cigarette tends to enter the system the quickest and thus is optimal for treating pain symptoms quickly. Would you rather regular Tylenol or Tylenol Rapid-Release. The downfall for me is that a common symptom in fibro patients is forgetfulness and brain fog, within a month I had misplaced my vape with my vape oil intact; that was an almost $300 loss. No fear! No kids or unintended users weren’t hurt. There are safety protocols in place to lock and disconnect your vape pen from other users in the connected app. Now that flower is available patients have a more comprehensive approach to combat various symptoms as needed.

As I still work to understand my optimal health regime, I can honestly say consuming medical marijuana has truly helped me to be a better wife, mother, and person. I am not cured, but I do have an extra weapon in my arsenal. I would encourage anyone suffering from chronic debilitating conditions to consider this natural alternative. Here’s how to do it legally in Louisiana now that the cannabis flower variety is available.

Raw flower marijuana


The Process:

Find a clinic or doctor who administers recommendations for medical marijuana. Your current doctor or one who diagnosed your condition maybe able to write your recommendation

Any physician with Schedule I privileges can issue a recommendation for medical cannabis, but many don’t. There are a few doctors that were trailblazers in the field and have formed specialized clinics that cater to medical marijuana recommendation.

As of August 1, 2020 patients can obtain a medical marijuana recommendation from a licensed doctor for ANY condition that is deemed debilitating. In my experience the physician will want to see documentation of a pre-existing condition and specifically a chronic illness diagnosis. If you have been a closeted consumer and have benefited from the use of an undiagnosed condition; the physician may require an in-person consultation.

Research clinics before choosing one. Each clinic has different rules for patients in regards to recommendation length, visit cost, and whether they see patients virtually or in person. Initial consultations and follow-up visits or recommendation extension costs will vary. Some clinics have a yearly consultation and recommendation fee and some charge an initial fee and require routine follow-up visits which can add up. You will be paying anywhere from $150 to $600 a year just for access. Remember Medical Marijuana is NOT covered by any insurance so these fees will be 100% out of pocket on top of medication costs which is NOT cheap. I’ve visited the pharmacy three times in the two years I’ve been a patient. Depending on use, a little goes a long way.  Once approved the doctor will send your recommendation to one of the nine dispensaries licensed in the state of Louisiana. In my experience, it is not transferable to another pharmacy/dispensary or state. You do not receive a tangible copy like a prescription. The recommendation will go directly to the pharmacy you chose.

Medical marijuana products from LSU Ag and Southern University Ag

When you arrive at the pharmacy they will verify your information. There are so many options and varying dosages. Patients have access to various tinctures, topicals, edibles, and inhalers. And as of January 1, 2022, we patients have access to marijuana flower which is smokeable. You can ask to have a consultation with a pharmacist on-site to go over your options. Purchases must be made via cash or debit. No credit transactions can be made at the Baton Rouge dispensary.

No Judgment. I’m amazed every time I pick up meds. I’ve seen young, old, Black, white, work boots, suits, heels, sneakers.

Support Southern. All products sold in Louisiana dispensaries will come from one of two sources, LSU AgCenter or Southern University Ag Center. I find that Southern’s products tend to be available in higher THC dosages per mg. In turn, you can consume less and your medicine will last longer, which means more cost-saving.  Only Southern has vape and flower options for medical marijuana. As a consumer, you can request the AYO brand and your purchase will support Southern University. 


@blackgirl_realpain is a Baton Rouge writer who shares insight on living with chronic pain and fibromyalgia as a middle-aged, Christian wife and mother. Follow her on Instagram.

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