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By Jean Cole for HometownFocus.us
We appreciate the praise by Terri (Mestnick) Kashani in this interview.
Terri (Mestnick) Kashani, a native of Virginia, MN, has had rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years. Now living in Bloomington, MN, Terri graciously agreed to answer my questions about her participation in Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program, which officially started July 1, 2015. She has been using medical cannabis for 1.5 years.
Tell me about your health condition.
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 30 years ago. It started out in my feet and over the years has progressed to just about every bone in my body. I have had 20+ surgeries to correct deformities and to put in pins, plates, artificial knuckles, and knee replacements. I have other areas of my body that cause me great pain, for example, my neck needs to be fused (however, it comes with risks and long rehab), my right ankle also needs to be fused, it often falls out of alignment making it difficult to walk. That rehab is four months in a wheelchair. I also have bone-on-bone in one of my elbows and a wrist which cannot be corrected at this time. So I’m working with chronic pain there, too.
When/why did you decide to try medical cannabis?
About a year and a half ago I felt like I was going insane from the chronic pain. I had second opinions done on the wrist, elbow and neck – very disappointing to find out that there was nothing to be done. I had nowhere else to go. Prescription painkillers were not an option for me, so I did extensive research and went to Colorado to test out some cannabis products. I purchased a salve, tincture and CBD capsules. They worked FABULOUSLY.
Describe the process of finding a doctor and getting certified to become a cannabis patient in Minnesota. Was it a hassle, was it easy?
HASSLE, is the quick answer. It was very difficult to find a doctor to [participate]. None of mine would do it. “There isn’t enough data to support it.” “My partners are not on board yet.” I decided to search the MN Dept. of Health website. It wasn’t clear on where to find a doctor. I hit every link on that darn site and through what I would call a back door I found a clinic that would see me. It was so hidden that I couldn’t find the site again when I decided to make an appointment. I finally had to search my browsing history to find it. I had to pay $250 in order to get an appointment. It took a couple weeks to get in. It required a lot of information and records – which took a few hours to compile and complete (and I am an efficient gal with records). I think most people would have given up by then.
So, the doc approves you and files with the state. The state then emails you if they will accept you. Then they collect $250 to register with them. Then they email you a list of dispensaries to choose from and you can then make an appointment to see a pharmacist at the dispensary. Luckily there was one close to my home.
So, unless you are considered disabled and get a discount with the state, an average person has now spent $500 out of pocket and has not received any medicine yet.
This treatment is not covered by health insurance; how much does your medication cost?
It is absolutely amazing how expensive the product is; I was appalled. My prescription was $210 for a one-month supply, taking only one capsule a day. According to the dispensary, most people take two capsules a day.
Cost is a serious deterrent to getting the medicine you may need to get the results you want. And, if you are having health issues your ability to make money is compromised to begin with. While I was waiting at the dispensary for the paperwork to go through I saw a young mother in the lobby with a child. Now, I know it’s the child that needs the medicine because children are not allowed into the dispensaries unless they are the patient. My immediate thought was “how is she going to afford this on a regular basis?”
Where do you get your medicine? Is it a hassle, or convenient?
I get my medicine from Medical Solutions in Bloomington. It is very convenient to my home.
What type of formula do you use, i.e., high CBD, low THC, or what?
I use the high CBD product because it has anti-inflammatory properties that helps keep my chronic inflammation under control. I dislike the feeling of being “high” so I chose a product with very little THC. (I personally am very sensitive to THC, most people are not.) However, there is a benefit to having a combination of THC and CBD because they work synergistically together creating a more powerful medicine.
What form (pill, tincture, vaporizer) do you use?
I use capsules. The dispensary that I went to was eliminating the tinctures and didn’t have the vaporizer. They said that there weren’t enough patients to purchase the medicine and it was expiring on the shelf.
Please describe the type of symptom relief you get from the medicine.
It takes the edge off my daily pain so that I can function. I also am aware of the internal anti-inflammatory effects that can’t always be measured physically.
How important is this medicine to your quality of life?
It has been an enormous help to ensure my quality of life.
MN’s medical cannabis law is very narrow and has very strict parameters. What are your feelings about MN’s law? If you could change the law, what changes would you make?
In a word, it sucks.
It seems like it was set up to fail before it even began. I truly don’t feel like it was developed with the intention of helping people who need it. This isn’t about the “stoner” who wants to smoke. This is about patients who have a legitimate reason to seek an alternative for relief. Price is definitely a problem – I get the sense that there are more people working for the cannabis program than there are patients.
What do you want people to know about the medicinal uses for marijuana?
I feel that there is serious lack of information and not just from the patient’s perspective but also people in the medical field. I think that cannabis is a wonderful alternative for people and a heck of a lot safer than some of the other medications offered to patients.
If you knew someone who lived in a state where medical marijuana was not an option, and they were sick, what would you advise them?
To go to the nearest state and give it a try.
What do you say to skeptics who think marijuana is bad, a gateway drug, and untested?
OMG, this belief of cannabis being a gateway drug is absurd. It’s so untrue. Marijuana has a stigma. One could say that smoking cigarettes is a gateway, that alcohol is a gateway. If a person is addiction-prone, they will find their drug of choice. I feel that there should be far greater concern over the use of opiates or even alcohol. The side effects of these can be wicked.
To say that this product is untested is untrue. There have been plenty of studies conducted. But research on medical marijuana is hampered because of it being illegal on a federal level.
What do you think about marijuana’s federal classification as a Schedule 1 drug? Why do you think they will not declassify it?
I feel, that if they declassify it, it would be a huge problem for the pharmaceutical industry. I think that it’s a stigma that has been put into the American consciousness for decades. The lack of awareness and public education makes it very difficult for politicians to back the legalization movement.
Have you had to educate/convert (so to speak) friends and/or family who were concerned about your use of this medicine? What did your parents think, for instance?
Not really, the proof is in how I am feeling, so much less pain!! Those close to me are thrilled that I have found an option to treat my chronic pain issues. However, I am lucky to be surrounded by open-minded people. That’s not always the case for others.
If MN had not passed a medical cannabis law, what would you have done?
I am resourceful. I would find it and use it.
Please share some examples of people you know who are benefiting (or not) from medical cannabis.
It’s been a real game changer for many people I know. They have less pain, numbness from multiple sclerosis (MS) is gone, it decreases pain enough so a person can sleep.
I know of a mother who traveled out of state to get cannabis drops for her child who was having numerous seizures per day. Someone locally advised her not to give it to her child because if the cannabis was found in the child’s bloodstream, child protection could get involved. What a crying shame! Can you imagine watching your own child with a seizure, but being terrified of the consequences of trying medicinal cannabis? Another gal I know is unable to get the product because she lives too far away from a dispensary and doesn’t have the physical and financial support to get there.
Please say whatever else you want to say about this topic.
Awareness and education is of the utmost importance when it comes to understanding this product’s benefits. Also, I was fortunate to have my experiences with the capsules before I went to the local dispensary. The pharmacists were of little help, and had no practical dosing information. I fear for those who go there not knowing what products to choose, especially at the prices they charge, and not knowing what to get for the desired pain relief.
There is a great organization called “ASA” - Americans for Safe Access - that I would recommend checking out. Their website: www.safeaccessnow.org.