The Dirt / Pot for Mom
Photo courtesy of Sally Cunningham
Jane Siebert and daughter, Sally Cunningham
Jean Seibert turned 101 on March 21, 2017. She is smart, lucid, pleasant, eats well, and has good friends and family close by. She does some gentle, old-person exercises. She dresses nicely, puts on her make-up by 10 a.m., and looks forward to a tiny glass of port at 5 p.m. She is in charge of her own life. But her back, hips, knees, and neck are painful. “Turning 100 was fun,” she says. “I had a pretty good year. But 101—not so good. I hurt all the time and even have to lie down right after breakfast. Standing up just to wash the dishes is unbearable.”
It shouldn’t have to be like that, my sister and I decided. If a non-opioid pain managing product exists—that doesn’t make her sleepy, dopey, or constipated—what can we do to get it?
Mom agreed to try almost anything, even that scary-sounding “medical marijuana,” although she said “I’m a little worried it will make me giddy.” So I began to jump through the hoops. Our doctor agreed that Mom might benefit from medical cannabis, and sent us to the DENT Cannabis Clinic in Amherst, famed for pain management. The products can be obtained only through licensed practitioners with an active Drug Enforcement Administration registration. We completed applications and interviews and eventually Mom received her certification, with a conservative prescription (1 to 1 TCH/CBD ratio) to start. Next step was to apply online for a NY.gov ID. It’s a long road: grueling and frustrating. I wondered all through it how someone more senior or less educated or less computer-capable could possibly do it. It is likely that many who need help most could not.
A couple weeks later, we received the NY.gov ID, so we could then register with the New York State Department of Health. The application fee was fifty dollars and proof of ID and residency was required. After a few business days, we received the magical registration card that opens the doors to a dispensary.
In WNY, so far, there are two dispensaries: PharmaCannis in Amherst and Bloomfield Industries in Williamsville (others in Rochester and Syracuse). Once we found the first one—closely locked and guarded—we presented IDs and finally went home with a little bag of liquid product, with the beginner’s THC and CBD 1-to-1 ratio. She dropped it under her tongue twice a day. That was just the start.
It did nothing for her for three weeks, nor did the second formula (a 1-to-4 ratio) prescribed three weeks later from a different dispensary. We learned as we progressed that it’s all about balancing the ratio of THC and CBDs, and different product strains and formulations serve individuals differently. (THC is the component that makes people high and also has medicinal uses; CBD is anti-inflammatory with other medicinal benefits; medicinal cannabis is designed for managing disease rather than for a “high.”) We learned about different ways to give patients the product including topical applications (a salve or cream), edibles (cookies, brownies, etc.), or liquid drops under the tongue. We’re not talking smoking here. We also learned that our bodies have natural endocannabinoid receptors that respond to cannabis, which also take time to adapt.
It’s no surprise there is a time lapse and experimentation before good results. As of this writing, Mom is on the third prescription and formula—with no significant comfort resulting yet—but we understand it’s a process worth pursuing. Cannabis has helped many people with pain. She has to keep trying; the pain is relentless.
The other factor bothering her frugal self: No insurance applies; she must take cash to the dispensaries, and it is very expensive—in an early attempt more than $110 for a two-week supply, all depending upon the formula. And it doesn’t even make her “giddy”, although a little bit of giddy might not be a bad thing, considering.
Sally Cunningham is a garden writer and lecturer, author of Great Garden Companions (Rodale Books), CNLP (certified nursery and landscape professional), and recognized in WNY for expertise in organic and ecologically responsible gardening.