Glaucoma Patient Turns To Marijuana 'To Ease My Suffering'

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Unlike former president Bill Clinton, Charles H. Snyder III inhales.

On bad days, he heats up marijuana three times a day. On good days, it's less.

However, on bad days -- when the chronic pain from glaucoma and the rare genetic disorder Nail-Patella syndrome becomes unbearable -- the 31-year-old Genesee County resident sniffs more marijuana through an electric vaporizer.

"For seven years, doctors tried to find the right formula of pain pills to help me lead a more normal life," said the married father of a toddler daughter. "They never found the right combination or dosage amount that didn't make things worse. It's not about getting high. I'm not a thug. I'm trying to ease my suffering."

Snyder estimates he's one of approximately 50,000 Michigan patients struggling with chronic pain who rejoiced when citizens passed the controversial Proposal 1 in the Nov. 4 general election.

When the proposal takes effect Thursday, Michigan will join Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington in permitting medical marijuana to treat cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic pain and HIV/AIDS -- without fear of state prosecution.

Snyder is a member of the Ferndale-based medical marijuana reform advocacy group Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care.

An unemployed construction worker, he began using marijuana after reading about the relief it provides. Absent or underdeveloped kneecaps and thumbnails characterize Nail-Patella, which causes bone, joint, fingernails and kidney abnormalities.

He began buying it seven years ago from "underground people I trust."

He uses a vaporizer to heat the drug to 356 to 392 degrees -- nearly the same temperature as baking a cake -- to release active cannabinoids, but below the point where the heat produces carcinogenic tars and noxious gases.
"There are less than 100 people in mid-Michigan that I'm aware of using marijuana for medical reasons, but who knows for sure, since people are afraid of being put through the ringer or arrested," Snyder said. "For me it's more important to have some type of quality of life, so the fear and danger involved with buying illegal drugs are worth it because I'm taking a more proactive role in my overall well being."

The proposal allows people to use and grow marijuana to treat certain medical conditions with a physician's authorization. However, users of the mind-altering drug -- also known as cannabis, weed, herb, maryjane, reefer, 'the chronic', pot and blunts -- must register with the state.

Once licensed, patients may possess 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana and cultivate no more than 12 plants in an enclosed, locked facility, according to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

A federal no-no
That's not the case federally, warns Saginaw County Prosecutor Michael D. Thomas.

"Proposal 1 is a state issue, there's nothing that will exempt medical marijuana users from federal prosecution," Thomas said. "The last I heard, our federal drug czar (John P. Walters) has not given up the ability to prosecute people and is very much against its use."

The Food and Drug Administration continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance having a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value -- making it illegal to possess or sell.

State police and Department of Health officials have an additional 120 days to create and implement rules regulating how doctors prescribe it, the distribution, patient use and issuing permits, Thomas said.

"The real irony is America has spent decades and countless amounts of money advertising how toxic cigarettes are and the dangers of second-hand smoke. From all of the information I've read smoking marijuana is 10 times more carcinogenic than tobacco," Thomas said.

Dr. Michael C. Cappelli, 45, agrees. The radiation oncologist at St. Mary's of Michigan Seton Cancer Institute, 800 S. Washington in Saginaw and Michigan State Medical Society board member has "mixed feelings" about the initiative's passage.

"I can't believe it passed," he said. "It's terrible public policy that can become a bridge to federal legalization. I'm in favor of relieving pain and suffering, but the problems, such as lung damage, associated with smoking pot will cause greater harm to public safety than any benefits. It also opens a Pandora's box for law enforcement."
However, Cappelli is staying open-minded.

"There are so many new legal drugs out there to work with there's no reason we shouldn't be able to find a legal medication that works. ... (My feelings) may change, especially if it's the only thing that will relieve a patient's chronic pain."

Glaucoma specialist and ophthalmologist Dr. Usha Bulusu, who has a private practice at 4705 Towne Centre in Saginaw Township has "mixed emotions" as well.

"I don't see a need for it," she said. "While it does reduce the painful pressure in the eyes of patients with glaucoma, it's not a suitable treatment because the effects only stay in the body for a limited amount of time and the best treatment should provide long-term, consistent management."

"There are no clear answers. Depending on the circumstances, it could be a good thing for those who really need it. Or it could create a channel for abuse ... and that's the problem."

Source: Glaucoma patient turns to marijuana 'to ease my suffering' |
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