Medical Marijuana: An insight into a patient's journey. (Part 1)

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Legalized medical marijuana, although still a touchy and contentious subject to some, has been slowly unfolding in many states in the United States.

BACKGROUND

To date, medical marijuana is legalized in the United States in 30 states including the following:

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connectiut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusets, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hamshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virgina.

Each of these states have their own regulations and guidelines regarding use and qualifications. 

Here in Florida, the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, passed on November 8, 2016 for qualified patients under the supervision of a qualified and licensed marijuana doctor. Furthermore, this amendment passed with a total of 6,518,919 (71.32%) YES votes and 2,621,845 (28.68%) NO votes.

The federal government has classified Marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug making it illegal for doctors to prescribe marijuana to their patients. These marijuana doctors can only make recommendations for medical cannabis in compliance with the state law which can be valid up to 1 year. Patients cannot go to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for medical marijuana.

Under strict regulations, medical marijuana doctors are prohibited to be affiliated with any medical cannabis distributors or dispensaries.

Only certain patients with "debilitating ailments" are afforded legal protection under this ammendment. Ailments classified under its provision include PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Chronic muscle spasms, Multiple Sclerosis, Seizures, Epilepsy, Galucoma, Crohn's Disease, Cancer, HIV/Aids, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease.

More information and specifics regarding this topic can also be obtained from the website of the Florida Department of Health (www.floridahealth.gov) on how to become a medical marijuana patient in Florida.

Another website with helpful information is www.marijuanadcotors.com

PARKINSON'S DISEASE

Many months ago, I came across a video on Facebook about a man with Parkinson's disease who was given a shot of medical cannabis. The before and after videos were quite impressive. Before the treatment, you can see the significant tremors, stuttering and abnormal posturing of this man. The after video showed a very different person. His speech was intelligible and audible, he had no stuttering, tremors and he showed very controlled movements. He was walking and talking as any normal person would. He also shared how it has improved his quality of life.

As a physical therapist with exposure to various cultural backgrounds, I personally have mixed feelings about medical cannabis. As a healthcare provider however, it is quite an epiphany to witness one of my patients significant change with medical cannabis use.

Mr. J.L. with Parkinson's Disease

For over five years, Mr. J.L. has been coming to me for physical therapy treatment off and on for problems brought on by his Parkinson's disease. Knowing the progressive nature of the disease, I watched this gentle soul deal with the effects of this debilitating affliction. His primary physician would refer him for treatment when he starts to develop weakness, rigidity, tremors and most of all, balance problems where he reported several falls at home.

We would see him for a period of about six to eight weeks each time working on improving his coordination, strength, flexibility and balance for the primary purpose of keeping him self sufficient at home as he lives alone. It is also to keep from falling which predisposes him to more severe injuries and complications.

The Change

About a few weeks ago, he came to the office to schedule for Physical Therapy as he was referred again by his doctor. Having worked with this patient through the years, I was trying to figure out what changed in him. I looked, and looked and observed as I did my initial evaluation. He may have noticed the curiosity that was nagging me because he gave me a knowing smile. No longer able to contain my curiosity, I asked him: "Mr. J, what have you been up to?" Mr. J laughed and asked me why was I asking him that question.

Well, it finally dawned on me: this man barely had no tremors on his right hand, his neck was aligned and was not shifted towards the right side and his speech was clearer! Another thing I observed was that he was walking better although not great, and he was able to turn around without having to stop and shuffle which he used to do.

He finally shared with me that he started taking medical cannabis for about a month as per recommendation of his neurologist. A friend of his apparently mentioned to him about a video on Facebook where a man with severe Parkinson's disease received a shot of medical cannabis and the change was visible after only a few minutes. This apparently prompted him to consult with his primary physician and his neurologist.

The change I have seen with Mr. J after only over a month of being on medical cannabis is significant. His speech improved, his voice deeper and more audible with no stuttering and he had more control of his right hand from little to no tremor. He is also standing straighter, his balance and coordination has improved even more so with the advanced balance retraining he is currently receiving.

I can see his coordination has improved as he can now bounce a ball on the floor faster with better accuracy, he can throw and catch a ball in standing without anyone holding on to him. We used to have somebody stand behind him and hold him as he had slow reactions and reflexive responses. His walking also improved. Just months ago, he would drag his right foot and walked with very short shuffling steps. He would lose his balance with the slightest attempt to turn around or lift his leg higher to stand on one leg.

These seemingly subtle changes in him for just about over a month of using medical cannabis has made a difference in his life. He shared that he feels more relaxed and is less anxious about falling. He can do simple house chores with more confidence and he is able to tolerate more advanced therapeutic exercises during his physical therapy sessions. He does not feel as tired and is able to do more tasks thoughout the day.

Mr. J is still on this journey and wanted to share this experience and for me to tell his story. Knowing him and his background, I know he is not the type of person that would take marijuana indescriminately for mere recreation and self indulgement. 

About Mr. J.L.

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Mr. J is originally from Central New York and has moved Florida. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease approximately seven (7) years ago. He used to be a designer for a very prestigious Syracuse China manufacturer whose customers include the White House, 5 star hotels and prestigious restaurants. He also was a member of a Barber Shop Quartet as a tenor for the SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Hhop Quartet Singing in America) and has been on several amateur Broadway shows in New York. He was an art teacher to middle school students teaching drawing.

His life changed when he was called to ministry sometime in 1986. He became involved with a healing ministry which he revealed, was mostly with people who had tumors. He has traveled abroad to expand his healing ministry. This has garnered so much attention that even the media noticed and did several coverages on his ministry. He is now retired and lives here in Palm Bay Florida.

It is a privilege to know this special person who has done so much in his younger days. He has dedicated so much time and commitment to helping others. I deeply appreciate the humanitarian service Mr. J has rendered and how his ministry has touched so many lives. I consider him another unsung hero of his time.

His willingness to have me share even a snippet of his story is a privilege. Being able to work with him to further his progress, see his motivation and determination through the years is a very humbling experience.

Mr. J has shared more details regarding how he got started on medical cannabis, from capsules to gummies, dosages, his ongoing experience and I will cover more of such on Part 2 of this blog post.

As always, thank you for tuning in!

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