There are a lot of things in my life made more difficult by stupid cancer, but one thing that cancer has made as easy as tying up Kanye and taking $10 million worth of his man-jewelry, is access to pharmaceutical drugs. I have enough pain meds, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills, antidepressants, steroids, stool softeners, anti-nausea, cough syrup, etc. to generously line the insides of a suspicious-looking trench coat.
With so many prescription drugs at my fingertips, it’s hard not to feel pretty dang awesome.
In reality, however, these prescription drugs don’t make me feel very awesome. I take drugs for the side effects of drugs that I take for the side effects of drugs. It’s a big, messy tornado of pills that’s swept me up and has yet to let me land me on solid ground.
Morphine is the big gun I have in my purse right now. Within a week I was physically addicted. Morphine is a powerful opiate up there with heroine. It will slowly eat away your muscles and generally weaken you until you’re like one of these sad little sea creatures attached to the walls of Ursula’s cave.
It’s easy enough, though, to get my hands on this and other higly-addictive and dangerous medications. My doctor just sends in a prescription for the exact medicine I need with the correct dosage and clearly labeled instructions on the bottle. A few hours later I’ll get a text that my prescription is ready, then go through the Walgreens drive-thru where I speak professionally with the professional in the white coat that studied six years in college to become a pharmacist. Then I take my neatly packed and clearly labeled bag from the drawer, sign a slip, don’t pay anything because my insurance covers it, and drive off into the sunset.
When it comes to getting medical marijuana, however, it’s not quite so streamlined.
For around $200, you can get a “Michigan Medical Marihuana Card” (Fun fact: Michigan legislators spent days in deliberation before coming up with an official spelling of ‘marihuana’ that most resembles someone trying to clear their throat of hamburger bun.)
I’d been trying to get a new card for a while. I submitted an application but didn’t hear back after months. Rumor has it, the government will throw out an application for something as small as a smudged ‘g’ or an ‘i’ without the dot on top. This is a big disadvantage for me going into the application process considering the amount of drugs I’m already on. I tend to miss details such as penmanship which seem about as relevant as building an imaginary 20 foot wall out of American-made marshmallows and twigs.
I suspect my last application was thrown in the garbage because my ‘q’ got a little out of hand. It must have had way too much pizzaz for that audience, its little tail twisted back up in a metaphorical kick to the throat of the mindless zombie bureaucrat assigned to my application. Lesson learned: know your audience.
In the meantime, I still needed to buy weed. It was either find more weed, or regress to my pre-medical marijuana lifestyle of curling in the fetal position while praying someone would shoot me in the head like cattle and take me out of the total agony of living inside my diseased body. That’s all. No big whoop.
There was no way I was going to go back to that.
My family can see how much marijuana has helped me, and everyone, including my elderly parents, has been fully supportive in helping me find weed. Since the only experience I had with smoking weed was a handful of times in high school and college at parties, I never actually bought it myself. Therefore, I had a steep learning curve in front of me.
My mom is ride or die, so she was the one helping me in the very beginning to buy pot. Neither of us new any terminology, or what a pound was compared to an an eighth, or had any frame of reference of how much anything costs.
Eventually, my medical marijuana license came in the mail, and I drove across the state to a dispensary I’d found online. The entire two hour drive there, I prayed it would not be like a Spencer Gifts.
There to greet me inside the dispensary stood a fourteen-year-old hostess from Applebee’s moonlighting as a medical marijuana specialist. In lieu of a white lab coat, she sported a bandanna or some type of napkin for a skirt and a few sheets of paper towel as a top. Her lips, chin, cheek and tongue were pierced (I wondered if they ever got tangled), and some of her piercings even had glow-in-the dark beads that shone quite nicely under the rows of black lights. She was very in-tune with her work environment despite not even having had her first period yet.
I took a seat and let the fact that I was buying my life saving medicine from a Spencer Gifts sink in a little before filling out a consent form (that looked uncannily familiar to the consent forms at tanning salons). The nice girl handed me a hot pink troll pen, and as soon as I finished promising on paper that I was eighteen and had at least one of the 8,000 medical conditions listed, she took me to the back.
The room was filled with every kind of neon bong, pipe, edible, and paraphernalia imaginable. No tranquil paintings of sailboats hung on the walls. No soft pop came through the speakers like at a doctor’s office either. This room was wall-to-wall Bob Marley and Grateful Dead posters with Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” on loop. When the girl stood behind the glass display case, I suddenly felt transported back in time to the prize counter at Chuck E. Cheese. The shiny new bongs and fancy combination lock cases quite impressed me, although the only paraphernalia I’d be needing was one of those oversized, “days of the week,” pill organizers.
Thinking I’d come quite prepared, I asked the girl about a few of the strains of weed I was interested in. I inquired which ones were high in CBD, which is what causes a sedative effect and eases body pain without making you “high”.
Up until I asked about the strains, Tarzan-skirt hadn’t given me the time of day, more interested in her gum-chewing and Tinder account than things like eye contact and full sentences.
She started bragging about the different strains, how one will get you soooo high (said in her best Ted-voice), and, she said, the other will, “…literally GLUE you to the couch.”
I wanted to take their biggest water bong and shatter it against all their stupid black lights and lava lamps, and tear out the speakers pounding out the trippy Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon and scream, “This is not FUN for me! I don’t want to get STONED! I am a mother responsible for a tiny life, the last thing I want is to get high. This is LIFE OR DEATH for me! Could you please put on some clothes and take this seriously?”
Instead, I chose a few different strains and tried to pay with, silly me, credit card. I forgot we weren’t in Walgreens or Spencer’s or an even remotely legitimate business establishment. So I risked my life crossing a busy 4-lane road back and forth to different ATM’s until I collected enough cash to pay for the crap weed.
Since then I’ve connected with a caregiver (that’s what the state calls drug dealers now), that knows my medical condition and grows plants specific to my needs. It’s great other than the having to meet in truck stop parking lots while keeping an eye over my shoulder at all times. And it’s all legal-ish (until a law changes or a cop decides to take a closer look at you) except for one thing. I can only legally have bud, as in those dried up bundles of spiky green plant matter that pot-heads drool over.
Most people would be happy to roll up a fatty J or whatever it’s called and smoke bud. But I have, eh hem, lung cancer, so I need to reduce the bud down to a potent oil which I take in pill form. And oil is illegal. Therefore, in choosing to take the drug that reduces all of my symptoms with no side-effects, has the potential to heal me of cancer, and is completely natural, I also risk going to jail.