Beginner’s Guide to Purchasing Medical Marijuana in California
Is marijuana now legalized in your state this year or next? Here’s a reference guide to California legally prescribed marijuana for patients. What’s light, what’s strong, and what’s going to kick your booty to rest and sleep when you need it.
Marijuana strains today are different than the home-grown doobies around in the 1960’s. Growers of ganja, called ganjapreneurs, pumped up the volume with hundreds of versions based on two strains. Sativa, an “upper”, is the main strain for cancer and chronic pain patients who like to take a break from the pain, without tearing your liver and kidneys like traditional pharmaceutical pills such as Vicodin ® (mixture of hydrocodone and generic Tylenol ® doses), and still be able to go and wash dishes in the sink, and vacuum the dog hair in the house, instead of being a zombie in bed like, say, a new dosage of Oxycontin.
For night time pain medication, the strain is called Indica, also known as “In and Out”. Relaxing, release from pain, and a great slumber. No, do not use this and take the dog outside, let alone attempt to drive. Actually, I don’t recommend driving for 24 hours after any marijuana usage. More on that later.
Plus all the fund edibles, teas, chocolates, what to choose? My questions as recently disabled: What gets me high, what puts me to bed to rest, and what just helps take the edge off so I can get my chores done at home, like a Saturday list of chores? And where do I get it, cheaply, safely, so my neighbors, friends and family don’t know, at least until I’m comfortable with them knowing? This has been my research project this year, and I’m here to tell you my experience, and what I’ve found for me in my weird, 40 year, odd, seronegative autoimmune world of pain, irritation, and medication.
As a teenager living on 23 acres, a hill or two over from Kendall Jackson’s Chalk Hill Winery, lots of neighbors were taking their John Deere tractors to push over the scraggly oak trees and plant cabernet and chardonnay vines. Me? I was trying to convince my Dad to grow marijuana. For the money, of course. “But, Dad, think of the tonnage per acre!” My Dad Tommy Gumina and I loved to argue. Of course, there was no way we were ever going to plant marijuana. We had a hard enough time with tomatoes. We planted corn and the deer ate it all. Flowers were like appetizer for little varmints. We were basically camping out in the country. Electricity would shut off at least twice a week. Water from the well would break. We had backup bottles in reserve. We’d try and fix it and screw up the pump even worse. Gas for heating and cooking was a truck drive from the propane guy every few months. Christmas Day, 30 family members showed up, some Italian, Sicilians, Pollacks, Jews, and one token white guy hockey player. Power? Yes. Water? Yes. Septic Tank? Plugged up. We had a 5 gallon bucket of water from the hot tub in the potty to flush and reminded the cousins not to flush tampons, sat down for our home made raviolis made by Nana, and moved on.
I got my medical marijuana card in March 2012. I’ve tried out cookies, tea, chocolates, buds and edibles. I’ve been “on the cookie” and laughed, giggled, and taken breaks from incredible, searing hip, sacroiliac, shoulder, clavicle, hand pain. My legs have ached like a whiny kid’s growing pain, a deep, deep, bone pain that has made me yell, scream, and cry in frustration. I’ve taken hot showers, iced, used heating pad, aspirin, Tylenol, Tramadol, Vicodin, Oxy. Luckily, thanks to my unique gene defects, I have a super high tolerance for pain and super low tolerance for alcohol and drugs.
I don’t mix alcohol and pharmaceuticals. I like my liver and kidney panels in a healthy range. Watching a fascinating lecture on Apple’s iTunes University, from Stanford’s Dean of Rheumatology, I did try Tylenol 4 times/day for awhile. After over 50 doctors, from age 23-43, guessing my predicament, from seasonal allergies to mental illness and obesity, I do my own medical research and trust none in white coats.
For someone starting out, I’d advise trying out very small doses, at your home, quietly, in a place you can rest, with another driving adult nearby to observe. I’m into safety. If you overdose on Vicodin or alcohol, obviously you’ll need a ride to the ER. MMJ? The book recommends just sleeping it off. Too much makes my mind race and feeds into my paranoia, so I go with a light dosage and stay away from 100% Indica blends. I’ve bought locally from a few vendors. To find something in your area, I recommend WeedMaps. There’s an app for that of course from the Apple store. It will always remain in your history, so just remember that, if you use iTunes at work. A good network admin will be able to ferret that info out. Use a computer at home, keep pot and porn off the corporate network, that’s my motto. Order something small, light, cheap, a test. After of course you are legal, or legal as can be, in California, make sure you have the medical marijuana card and backup.
I’m not an ideal patient for pain management clinics. I hate the feeling of being a drugged zombie like on the “Walking Dead” where they are known as “Walkers”. My Maiden name, Gumina, means “Walking” in Italian so it’s a bit of a double meaning. I want to keep physically human, humane and walking, not back from the dead. I started out on 5 mg Vicodin/4x/day for pain. Went up to 10 mg/325 4/day, then twice, then quit. I didn’t want the drug to own me. I loved the relaxed feeling within 30-60 minutes, but hated how I felt when the pain started to come back in 3 hours – irritated and craving more.
I did go in and ask for a stronger pain med once. They gave me Oxycontin – perhaps you’re heard of it? Used by Radio talk host Rush Limbaugh, got addicted and couldn’t hear? . I called in sick to work and sat on the couch for four days. I was drugged, intoxicated. And I could still feel my back pain. I stopped that Rx, and started researching medical marijuana. Where do I get it in my state? What do I buy? What medication do I start with? Is it safe? What dosage(s) are appropriate? I started reading online articles on a separate, new laptop. I consulted with my partner and got his consent to pursue this medication. Would it help me? Was this the answer?
I’m still sick. My disease hasn’t gone away. Actually, it’s gotten worse, and progressed into a series of flares as autoimmune diseases are so likely to do. I was diagnosed with Graves Disease in 2003, a year after my son was born. But it didn’t quite totally fit. A second autoimmune disease was reported from the ophthalmologist in 2009 called Sjogren’s Syndrome, after extensive eye, mouth and system dryness. You can also have some joint pain, but three Marin rheumatologists were fighting with me over whether it was Sjogren’s or Fibromyalgia, due to the seronegativity of my lab work and odd joint pain that wasn’t symmetrical. I rolled my eyes, went back to PubMed for research, and changed my perspective: No more online “consumer” web sites. Time to take it up a notch and read heavy medical textbooks and play with the big boys.
My name for my disease is “The Mimicker”. For each autoimmune disease, there’s a group of 20 or so symptoms you could have. My body has picked a big symptom for each year of my life to act on and wreak havoc. For example, my left shoulder mysteriously started hurting in 2004. No reason. No injury. No correlation other than I’m left handed. Saw my ortho with the shaggy eyebrows and cowboy boots, who did my right ankle redo in ’99, got a few shots. Dx: Maybe bursitis or tendonitis. Try cortisone, RICE, blah blah blah. Got worse, stiffer, sorer over 3 years. Ortho retired. Got referral to a new one. Finally got autho for MRI. My primary Doc misread my MRI, mixed up report with another patient, and told me I had a rotator cuff injury. Did PT. Didn’t help. More RICE and bitching. Went back into the new ortho’s office. He said, no it wasn’t rotator cuff, it was something else, go back to PT. Pissed, I waited, and then finally went. 3 years later, this time, the PT helped incredibly. Got an awesome guy. He agreed it wasn’t rotator cuff injury, but instead was ulnar nerve damage, which he was from left handed, female women in my age group. Worked out with him for weeks, stretching, strengthening, icing, working on other muscles in area. That shoulder was fine by late 2007, and I gave him two jars of secret family recipe, Sicilian, home made pasta marinara sauce. Last month, got a copy of my medical records from that ortho office: try a big giant deposit of calcium, aka frozen shoulder (check out on Wikipedia). When my right shoulder acted up, and then my right Achilles tendon, then my left hip and sacroiliac joint, then both clavicles and finally both hands, I figured we had something rare.
I now have a real rheumatologist. I waited three months to see her in August. Had follow up visit in Sept. and December. We’re going with a Dx now of “Undifferentiated Spondalaropathy”. That basically means, "you have some weird, strange, autoimmune/rheumatic/rheumatoid/arthritis type of thingy and we’re just waiting to see what you pop out with next” type of disease. After being nauseous since July, losing 40 pounds a bit too easily even with MMJ, I have a good idea of what I have. That’ll be another article. I keep hoping it’s just the 1/1000 disease and not the 1/1,000,000 one.
Back to the MMJ: Think of it as a tool in my box if the sick and disabled. I don’t want any drug to have power over me. I can muscle through a lot of pain with ice, heat and gritting my teeth. Yes, note to self, get new TMJ retainers/splint after the yellow, shedding labrador ate all three of mine. MMJ has the least amount of toxicity and reported fatalities. But, like Huey Lewis in his song, there’s no perfect drug.
Don’t drink and drive. Don’t smoke or eat MMJ and drive. For drug testing, there are two types. There’s a quick urine test which will test positive/negative for cannabis, “eine” type etc. There’s also a blood test which will test the amount in your bloodstream of marijuana. My blood test was 43 or 87 or 77 at the pain place. (I peeked at my chart). It did take several months of lightly smoking and eating (I’m a super lightweight) to get that result. MMJ is very different from pharmaceuticals- it’s not a consistent type of high from the same amount, same batch, same type, of chocolate, buds, pills, etc. What worked yesterday for light might be too strong today. We need FDA regulation, testing, and dosage controls for consistent prescriptions before taking MMJ mainstream in America. Want jobs back in the US? Become a gangapreneur.
Feds: thinking of busting me? Good luck. My assets aren’t in my name. Just my crappy old car, which is discontinued and you can’t find parts, and it’s not even paid off. Sending over local law enforcement? Please. They’re on my speed dial. Did I mention I’m Sicilian? Nonno’s fishing partner was Joe DiMaggio’s brother. I attended Joe Alioto’s funeral on Filbert Street out of respect for my Papina. Alioto worked hard to get her over here as an orphan in a village near Palermo. She became my father and uncle’s sister, and my aunt, and my brother’s godmother. I can honestly say I’m not in the Mafia and I know no one who is and it doesn’t exist. Anymore.
Thinking of threatening my family? My son has the memory of an elephant. If I want to quote conversations when I’m drunk and can’t remember, I ask him. My daughter has the stubbornness and resolve of finely honed Wusthof steel. She came out of my womb, early, pissed off, and refused to cry. Nurses hit her, slapped her, poked her with needles. My husband? He glared at the Kaiser doctor, who, in 1994, so thoughtfully suggested maybe my head pain was from seasonal allergies. He wanted so badly to knock the doc out, but took every piece of reserve in his body not to in order to protect me while I was sick. Friends in places high and low? I’m covered. We’re Team Odom. Bring it on.