Is Medical Marijuana The Answer?
One Woman’s Opinion
   By – Sheri de Grom

Medical marijuana may be the only hope for chronic nerve pain.

I hadn’t thought much about chronic pain until it moved in. My doctors offered opiates and other addictive narcotics for pain management. My answer is still no even as I count the hours to my pending surgery in hopes it will repair multiple pinched nerves in my elbow, wrist, hand and fingers brought on by an old hand injury and carpel tunnel syndrome. Unfortunately, the diabetic neuropathy in the palm of my right hand will continue regardless.

In what seemed a nano-second, I went from a happy, fully-functioning adult to one who schedules all activities around her pain level. I’m not a nice person when I’ve reached my pain threshold.

Anti-social isn’t a word I’d have used in describing myself before chronic nerve pain arrived. But since then, I’ve experienced stretches where I haven’t wanted to leave the house for days or even weeks.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, and even The New England Journal of Medicine endorses the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of severe chronic pain.

Unfortunately, I live in a state that defeated the legalization of medical marijuana on the November ballot 51% – 49%. Our state is ultra-conservative and I’m still surprised we came so close to passing the law. I was more surprised when Oregon voters failed to implement the new limited recreational use law for marijuana.

I recently read that medical marijuana is available in ointment form. At the moment, I long for multiple tubes or jars or however it’s packaged. My entire right hand, arm and shoulder would be covered in the ointment right now!

Aside from the medical benefits of marijuana for individuals with chronic neuropathy (nerve pain) like myself, there are also proven benefits for arthritis, cancer and chemotherapy, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, nausea and a host of other applications

Statistics compiled by the Colorado Department of Revenue note that medical marijuana generated nearly $50 million in taxes and fees for Colorado in two and one-half years. Brian Vicente, a backer of the Colorado law, quoted in the December 24, 2012 issue of Time that, “broad legalization will push that number far higher.”

The idea that our country is in a financial melt- down should be enough to open the harshest critic’s eye.

Our infrastructure is one of the poorest of all civilized nations. Gas lines explode in populated areas, Amtrak bridges are barely standing in many locations along with other railway bridges that we still use. We’re horrified when a heavily-traveled auto bridge collapses and money has never been allocated for repairs.

Public hospitals are understaffed. City and state mental health clinics and hospitals are gone. We’ve priced our state university system tuition rates out-of-range for the average family. There are many other examples of financial need but all could be put on a path to recovery with the revenues gained from taxing medical marijuana.

Although some of the eroding or defunct infrastructures have been the responsibility of the federal government, why should they remain that way? The trickle-down approach for allocation of monies hasn’t worked since WWII. A recent example: the lack of Hurricane Sandy relief for New York and New Jersey dismissed once again for a congressional recess called by John Boehner, Speaker of the House.

When Congress reconvened, tax-payers discovered the legislation passed in the new year to aid the hurricane victims was packed with hidden, unrelated spending.

At the present time, the suggested excise tax for every ounce of marijuana is fifteen percent or forty dollars. I have a high need for my country to remain strong and for our infrastructure to be the safest in the world. For that to happen, we must have a new source of revenue. Why not take marijuana sales off the streets and put them into a controlled tax arena?

I need relief from my chronic pain. I am fortunate, though. Surgery hopefully will take away my pain and rehabilitation will restore function to my right hand. Perhaps even more important, I have insurance that will pay one-hundred percent of the cost.

But what about everyone else’s pain? They need relief and we have the ability to provide it for them.

If marijuana is taxed at the consumer level as a luxury tax, we just might see improvements in public schools, medical research, municipal police and fire departments. Services cut to the bone may return to former staffing levels, and our severely lacking infrastructure may be made strong once again, along with many other improvements.

The on-set of chronic pain has provided me a new cause for advocacy. I don’t want another medication building up in my liver and destroying organs. Pain medication is the leading cause of accidental death in suburbia today.

Responsibly used, medically managed marijuana is the safest of all pain management resources.

The FDA has approved Dronabinol, a synthetic THC. This medication lacks several of the therapeutic compounds available in natural cannabis.

Unfortunately, Dronabinol must build-up in the liver before pain relief is achieved. If the medication is used irresponsibility, the negatives include seizures, fast or pounding heartbeat, hallucinations, confusion, and many others.

How do you feel about the legalization of marijuana for medical and/or recreational use?

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. Hi Sheri,

    Sorry to hear about your health problem. It must be very difficult. My daughter (in college) did her thesis paper on the economic ramifications of legalizing marijana. What she found is that it would be a smart move. I love America, but we are sure short sighted about a lot of issues. The fact we’ll think alcohol is freak out over marijuana is a little crazy. But people think Health Care Reform should be overturned (huh?) and that’s a crazy, too. Great post.

    Oh, I see you were a buyer at B & N. I had a thirteen year career at the headquarters of Walden/Border Books. Guess we were rivals in bookselling :-). Lol…the business sure has changed!
    Sharon Struth

    • Yes, I agree, we as a country and its people are short sighted about so many issues that could solve so many problems. I keep thinking about the money from the taxation of marijuana and what each individual state could accomplish for their infrastructure if they’d just open their eyes. We have so many opportunities begging for us to take them and still so many elements to overcome before we’ll ever reach that status – if we ever do.

      I went to B&N after I retired from the government at age 54. I had more fun than anything. I loved being around the books and people and discovering what I could do to sell more and more books.

  2. First, I’m sad to hear that you suffer from chronic pain. Having been in several car accidents over the years, I can relate and understand. There’s nothing worse than being unable to make plans because you don’t know how you’ll feel. Though I’m doing much better now, I remember how frustrating it was to have to cancel lunch dates and weekend events. You begin to isolate yourself and friends who don’t understand stop extending invitations. I hope that you’re able to find a way to control your pain, but you’re right to resist the offer of narcotic medication. Many of them actually increase your pain and create a cycle of debilitating addiction. And I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies feel really bad about it…NOT!

    Second, I’ve been pro-legalization of marijuana for years – both for medical and recreational use. Nearly every study I’ve read about marijuana supports that it is less addictive than alcohol and, unlike alcohol, can provide pain relief without harmful side effects. To those naysayers who claim that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” I say that it is no more of a gateway drug than alcohol. Unlike alcohol, however, marijuana is responsible for very few fatalities; people who use it aren’t inclined to go anywhere when they’re high…other than perhaps their kitchen. Your points on the economic benefits of decriminalizing marijuana are well made. I’ve been saying the same thing for years: make it legal and tax the hell out of it.

    I live in Florida and medical marijuana is not an option for me here, though I’m sure it would help with my occipital neuralgia. Perhaps we should all consider a move to Colorado?

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and providing your thoughts on this subject. I agree with you 100% on the legalization of marijuana for pain control along with taxing the heck out of it for social use at the 1 oz level. No one will ever convince me that marijuana is a gateway drug wherein all narcotic pain relievers are just that. When a doctor will no longer prescribe pain relievers for a patient, the individual in pain has to turn somewhere and that’s normally the street. I’ve yet to hear of a single pain patient turning to alcohol for pain relief and can’t imagine it for myself. The medicine cabinet would be empty first! I take an honest look at many drugs that are given for preventative pain discomfort. One is Topamax for migraines. Yet, it scrambles the brain and makes it impossible to find the words I want to use on a regular basis. Then there’s Lyrical for nerve pain and it actually causes me to believe dementia must be settling in. It’s impossible to finish sentences and I tossed the medication. I want to use words and find the anxiety of lost words more painful than the nerve pain. (Does that make sense). I’m actually looking forward to surgery on Feb. 15 wherein nerves will be moved around and hopefully the compressed nerves will be relieved of their pressure. Having this experience with chronic pain has certainly opened my mind to the legalization of marijuana.

      • I’ll be thinking of you next Friday when you have your surgery and wishing you well. I know what it’s like to be in so much pain that surgery becomes a welcome procedure. Fingers crossed that it works!

        • Thanks so much. I can’t wait for all of this to be behind me. I’m even staying away from everyone for fear I’ll catch something and have to delay the surgery. Hope I’m not being paranoid but I scheduled the surgery in early Dec and this coming Fri was the first available opening. The surgeon is ranked #1 in several states. I’m banking on his reputation holding up.

          • I’m sure it’ll go perfectly. It sounds like you’ve done your homework; now, it’s in the hands of the universe. You’re smart to stay away from everyone. Besides the flu, there is a nasty cold going around; it slowed me down for a good 8 to 10 days. Don’t stress too much; you’ll reactive your chicken pox virus (assuming you had the chicken pox) and come down with shingles. How long will you be away from us in the blogosphere? Just so we don’t worry…

            • I plan to post a “I’ll be away” blog on Thu. Thank you for asking. It depends on what the surgeon finds when he gets into the elbow and the hand nerves. It could be 6 weeks and it could be 6 months. I’ve purchased speech activated software and have played around with it some. BTW – do you accept awards on your blog. I’ve 4 more to do and I would love to bring your blog to the attention of my followers. I positively adore your blog regarding Michelle Obama’s bangs and have told many that it’s an absolute must read. Thank you for your support regarding the surgery. It means a lot.

              • Wow…can’t believe you’re thinking about passing out awards when you have so much else on your plate. Of course, I accept awards and it would be a privilege to accept one from a writer and thinker of your caliber. I don’t envy your recovery. I think I would pull my hair out if I had to use speech activated software – although, I have heard that it works. Perhaps that will be the topic of one of your future posts?

                I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post about Michelle Obama. I think she’s absolutely amazing, but I couldn’t resist satirizing all the attention received by her bangs. I’m surprised they don’t have their own Twitter account. 😉 Please let us know how you’re doing. I’m sure all your fans/friends will be praying for your swift recovery and, perhaps more importantly, a permanent one.

  3. Lynn – Beautifully said and what a solid way of sorting out a difficult subject. Thank you for putting another slant on this difficult subject.

  4. Lynn Garrett says:

    Age has given me a different perspective on many things. My mother used to say you could make a sin out of anything, even walking down the street. Very few things are sinful in themselves. It’s mostly a matter of how we use them. Maybe this falls into that category. Lynn

  5. Oh Sheri, I am SO distressed to hear you speak of such terrible chronic pain! Like many others, I had no idea. I’m seriously behind with my blog-reading which is why you are just hearing from me now. I have to say I agree with the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and know several people who have received significant relief by using it. I hope your upcoming surgery brings the desired result and want you to know I am thinking about you, sending positive vibes and {{{hugs}}}. Love your new avatar photo!

    • Patricia – I had no idea what severe chronic pain felt like until late October when everything started all at once. I’m planning on being as good as new after the surgery and rehabilitation. You know how doctors ask you to describe pain on a scale of 1 to 10; well now I have a reference point. Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment.

  6. thoughtsfromanamericanwoman says:

    To be honest I at first was 100 % no way – it is illegal and should stay that way…period!
    But then with my cancer diagnosis and treatment and now my own chronic pain, I realized what difference is it if the marijuana is used medically such as our strong pain pills, I had been put on some pretty strong narcotics over the years but it was monitored carefully. I am not sure about legalizing it for personal use though any more than I would like to see those narcotics legalized. I come for an alcoholic home and know the effects that addiction can cause – although I know keeping it illegal is not keeping it off the streets but by legalizing it, it would be too easily accessible for people to use and our system is already overburdened with recovering addicts. But all that said, I think it should be made available to those who need it and closely monitored so it would not effect their health and well being. It is a tough issue, I would think our government would want to try and keep things that would harm us away and have our best interest at heart, but, well, we all know how our politicians feel about us. Taxing it to make more money for our government that just won’t stop spending just doesn’t seem to right to me or the reason well everyone else does it? As the saying goes will you jump off a bridge into raging waters because everyone else does it? It is the same theory but legalizing something that can be addictive is endangering us like jumping off a bridge into raging waters. And so you know, if I could I would love for alcohol to be illegal again too, I know it did not work the last time, but I think it is time the American people wake up and stop using things that are harmful to not only themselves but to those who love them. Addiction affects everyone… Just my two cents worth… 🙂 Patty

    • Patty – Thanks for your open and honest opinion. I well understand the addiction issue and the problems it not only causes in a home, to the individual as a person, and our society as a whole. At this time last year, I would have said no, absolutely not. I would never have voted to legalize medical marijuana. The more I read and talk to others, the more benefits I hear about medical marijuana and the more deficits I learn about pain medication. But the same as alcohol or any other addictive element, if medical marijuana is used responsibility – I would sure like to have the ointment I’ve read about! I hadn’t thought much about the legalization of the 1 oz for personal use until I started looking at just how much money states were making after the cost of enforcement, salaries to monitor programs, etc. Another advantage under discussion has to do with the 1 oz per person: could that possibly slow down the number or marijuana smugglers coming across our borders? Legalizing marijuana in any form is a complex decision.

      • thoughtsfromanamericanwoman says:

        There are sure many sides to this issue and like you said a complex issue. I wish we had an easy solution. You are also correct when you factor in the cost the states have to pay for enforcing the law. I have weighed the pros and cons of this issue for a long time and to be honest I am as confused as ever. But it is important to keep the discussion going, and who knows one day we may have it legalized for medication purpose and people will wise up to the pain they are causing because of addiction. Another reason I like reading these blogs, it opens my mind to what other people are saying, I am learning so much.

        • Patty – I’ve thought at length about the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana both for medical purposes and the 1 oz personal possession law. I have a much easier time with the medical purposes law but I also believe the 1 oz law has merit. We’ve been unable to stop illegal immigration from Mexico and the most violent illegal crossings have been as a result of marijuana. If we had controlled plant growth in the US, would our borders be safer? I don’t know. We all know that addiction to any substance or multiple substances is a killer. Anything in excess is a killer. I just discovered that food addiction is the #1 killer of all addictions in the US. The research was right there in front of me as I read the study. I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong answer to this issue. I believe it’s like most topics I write about on Monday’s that are controversial, it is what it is. Each of us must walk with God and pray for guidance. Once again–God’s will be done . . .

          • thoughtsfromanamericanwoman says:

            wow I did not realize that. That is terrible, but then again look at the fast food and easy access of foods just about on every corner. I had no idea. I know how easy it is to grab a bite when I am stressed or bored or whatever…when I realized at what I was eating was not normal portions I was shocked, since then I have relearned to eat and was surprised at how little we really need. Anyway…thank you for you research, I think I am starting to look at the laws differently and maybe not so much to control us but to keep us healthy. This has been so enlightening and you have made some valid points. Great discussion I learned a lot.

  7. booklaurie says:

    You know, I’ve never heard ANY explanation of why medical marijuana could be considered a BAD thing…and yet somebody must have one somewhere, or how can America possibly justify continuing to ignore it?

    Of course, that might just mean I hang out with a bunch of smart people — but I sure wish I knew what the thinking is for NOT legalizing it. Even Arizona, which I think of as a pretty backward state in some respects, has allowed medical marijuana. Sheri, you need to come here and visit!

    • Jane – I’d love to hear from many users of medical marijuana (those that have been medically supervised for 6 months or more) and learn their opinions. I’m not talking about individuals that complain of a migraine — I’ve had those for years and never thought of medical marijuana as being a possible solution. Would you like to elaborate on what you mean by ‘baggage?’ I never thought I’d consider medical marijuana a possibility but that all changed when chronic nerve pain entered the picture.

    • Laurie – If my Feb surgery doesn’t fix the 7 pinched nerves and everything else going on in my right arm and hand, please make up the guest room:) I think I see an ‘in person’ need for one of your fabulous workshops on the horizon. Arkansas missed legalizing medical marijuana by such a narrow margin but I was surprised the issue even made it on the ballot. The complaint here and in many other states has to do with morality and that legalizing marijuana in any form would lead to the use of hard drugs. The list went on and on by the Nay Sayers here: Individuals would become addicted, they would turn to crime when they hallucinated, marijuana use would destroy an individuals mind, and on and on. I’ve often thought if we legalized marijuana we might cut down on some of our border issues.

  8. Jane Sadek says:

    Do I see medical marijuana as a potential boon to chronic pain sufferers? Absolutely. But it comes with a lot of baggage. Sorry you’re having such a rough time. Hope the surgery is soon and that it helps.

  9. I agree with Mary – I don’t understand the paranoia surrounding the legalization of marijuana. I personally know many people who are using narcotic drugs to manage pain and those drugs have horrible side effects and are horribly addicting. So, what’s the big brouhaha about legalizing marijuana. I think it’s only a matter of time before more states make it legal. Several states have already done so and the rest will follow eventually.

    • Hi Patty – Thanks for stopping by to comment. I’d really like to have some of that ointment to rub on my pinched nerves right now! I also know California could use tax money to repair infrastructure. CA has some of the worse bridges in the country. (Not trying to scare you, it’s just the facts).

  10. As always, a thoughtful and carefully argued post, Sheri. I have never understood the paranoia surrounding legalization of marijuana. For people with chronic pain issues, the medications currently being prescribed cause as much damage as they bring relief, in the form of addiction, depression, over-use, falls and accidents… the cost of treating these “side effects” is probably as high as the cost of treating the original condition. Plus, the loss of productivity to the economy and subsequent lower consumer spending (apart from the drugs, which primarily benefit the pharmaceutical companies) – well, I can’t even begin to do the math.

    Approving medical marijuana wouldn’t solve everything but it would certainly help alleviate a lot of personal pain and suffering and provide a revenue stream that no government should ignore. You’ve got my vote, Sheri. And my best wishes and that gentle hug…

    • Mary – Thanks for stopping by. You are so right about the side affects of the narcotics being prescribed and with little counseling. I shudder when I read of the number of accidental overdoses. I can understand how it happens however. Often the pain is so bad you’d begin to wonder if you’d remembered to take your pill and decided you hadn’t. Therefore you’d take additional medication. I have friends that tell me they run out of medication several days before they can get a refill. They aren’t addicts. They are people in pain. I won’t accept the narcotics for the very reason that I’d probably end up taking to many. I’ve never heard of anyone committing accidental suicide for putting to much medical marijuana ointment on their arm and hand.

  11. Denise Hisey says:

    Hi Sheri,
    This is such a hot topic…I see validation on both sides of the coin.
    I also suffer with chronic pain and have even discussed the use of M.M. with my naturopath. She suggested a cream formula would be best since I’m not interested in smoking. I’ve never tried any non-prescription drugs -was too afraid of becoming addicted due to addiction issues in my family. I don’t use RX drugs either, for the same reason. So, that lingers in my mind although the doc told me marijuana isn’t physically addicting (can be psychologically addicting). The idea of being free of pain is luring, but I’m still too afraid I guess.
    All those other issues are side points for me, although I can see the logic in regulation and taxation. Not an easy question to answer, but great post!

    • Denise – I was so excited when I learned there was an ointment available for the treatment of chronic nerve pain. I’ve dealt with all the other pain and have pushed my way through but the pinched nerves are a completely different ball game for me. Like you, I have no interest in smoking marijuana. I don’t know how and have no interest. But, I am looking for pain relief.My thought about selecting medical marijuana or allowing pain control over my life, I’d select the marijuana. I’m not ready to give up the activities I enjoy when I don’t have to.

  12. Mae Clair says:

    I do think legalization will happen, it’s just a matter of when. Unfortunately, it’s taken too long and the gains are very slow. What a relief it would bring to so many people who suffer chronic pain or live with terminal illnesses. When I think of cancer patients, especially, it’s frustrating that the matter is still even being debated.

    I didn’t realize you struggled with chronic pain yourself. Hopefully, for those who could benefit from legalizatoin, it happen sooner than later.

    • Mae – I agree with you that it’s only a matter of time until medical marijuana is legalized in all states. My awful pain didn’t begin until late Oct and hopefully will cease after surgery in late Feb. Now that I’ve been forced to dip my entire right arm into the ‘pool of chronic pain’ I’m a supporter of legalizing medical marijuana. For those individuals that suffer chronic pain 24/7, I have no idea how they manage to get through each day. I have hope at the end of my tunnel.

  13. Sheri, once again you champion for those who have no voice. The call for legal marijuana has been sounding since the 70’s … to decriminalize or legalize this … the least habit forming of all known drugs … has been an issue for so long, I sputter and spit into the wind at the thought of all we could do for our country and for those in need.

    You sited one of the objections some of us liberals have in this regard. That many in congress saw Hurricane Sandy relief as an opportunity to once more “tag” on pork belly spending is the major problem with anything becoming part of our government’s responsibility.

    Yes, the revenue benefits would be astronomical … but the attending political mess would be immediate. Absolutely, we should make medical marijuana available in all states. Until that happens there are little old ladies who are arrested for purchasing it on the streets, seniors are humiliated for growing their own … and like the thousands who flock to Canada or Mexico to escape the rising cost of drugs in the U.S. those in need continue to pay the price for our inept and corrupt system.

    • Florence – You are so correct about the political mess legalizing marijuana would bring about. However, we fought the same mess when the lottery was introduced state by state. We heard some of the same arguments. The poor will spend all their money on lottery tickets and starve to death. That hasn’t happened in our state. What has happened is that college students receive $2,000 toward their tuition each year as long as their grades are at an appropriate level and they can show need. It’s my understanding that, to date every student that has applied as received the money. Gaming casinos didn’t make it to the Nov ballot this year and our citizens go out of state to casinos in surrounding states. My thought: why not keep the money in state and tax the heck out of it!

  14. Wonderful post and so very sorry for your pain., gentle hug here {{}}! Now as one that suffers chronic pain (Fibromyalgia, Copd Emphysema, Congestive Heart Failure, and Periphal neuropathy in both legs I can say a whole hearted yes to legalization especially in pill or cream form as I could not smoke it due to the COPD. Although I have been an advocate (with great debate and dissensention within my own home ffor this opinion) of legalization for many years for no other purpose than revenue building on county, state and federal level. It would also relieve our penal system of a great burden and make room for the more hardened criminals that roam the streets. So my answer to your question a resounding YES!!!!

    • Len – Thank you for stopping in and posting your comment. I also have fibromyalgia (traffic accident induced) and it’s been far worse since my 6-hour surgery this past Oct. I also have the added periphal neuropathy in both legs (from the knee down) and including both feet. I’ve dealt with that for years and considered it as a part of life. It wasn’t until the pinched nerves came into play and my right arm and hand became virtually useless that I knew something else had to be the answer. I hadn’t thought about the relief we’d have to the prison system if marijuana were legalized (in controlled amounts). We wouldn’t have to worry about rotating hardened felons to the streets while the 3 times and you’re out marijuana folks are taking up our prison space.

      • I sure hope the surgery will help you and I am sorry you are going through so much pain. Right now I am not having the best days due to the cold. As for prison system if someone with common sense would just realize the benefit to the system …legalization in all states would probably happen quickly. 🙂

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