Why I use medical marijuana: An insider’s view on pain management using cannabis

In Chronic Pain, Feature Stories by Matt Mernaugh

The pain is never gone. Pain has been my constant companion for more than half my life, but I’ve discovered something that makes the pain tolerable, allows me to write, and most importantly love my life. Unfortunately the herb providing me pain relief is illegal.

Choosing cannabis to manage a brain tumor, fibromyalgia and scoliosis has resulted in a loss of my freedom on several occasions. I believe the amazing results are worth the two weeks I’ve spent in the Don Jail in Toronto, as I was charged with production of marijuana for personal use. Incarceration and social stigma does keep many people in the cannabis closet, but I and many people have adopted an outed lifestyle where everyone knows we are consuming cannabis.

My personal cannabis consumption is brazen to the point where some people misjudge me as simple pothead and some in cannabis circles accuse me of giving marijuana a bad image.

Vaporizing marijuana reduces my aching, sore, angry, upper back muscles. When my fibromyalgia is flaring up the generalized pain that seems to be everywhere is also greatly lessened with marijuana. The brain tumor located behind my left ear is less troublesome after toking, with pain in my ear and face becoming bearable.

Inhaling marijuana allows me to function, not fully pain free, but well enough to write this article, putter around cleaning my home, go for a peaceful stroll in the park or enjoy the company of friends. Cannabis is always with me because my pain levels begin to rise after an hour or two between puffs.

I want to maintain a moderate level of activity, not be zombified on my couch, which opiate-based medications do. Those drugs do not allow for a fully functional life and many, many Canadians in pain agree with me. Marijuana has been my treatment option since 1997.

I’d already been prescribed Demerol for pain, but getting something far less harmful and non-addictive continues to be a problem for the majority of Canadians. People who ought to qualify for Health Canada’s legal med pot program are falling through the cracks in vast numbers and continue to require places like Toronto Compassion Centre for assistance.

Canadian doctors have been exceedingly reluctant to sign patients up for Health Canada’s legal medical marijuana program. However, the simple application process for dispensaries has been embraced by doctors.

I’ve encountered nothing but roadblocks in gaining access to legal med-marijuana. Doctors are unaware of the program or the benefits of the plant. When presented with a government application for legal marijuana – complete with medical waiver – doctors bristle even more.

It’s important for people who use marijuana for medical reasons to know what they are inhaling and unfortunately most dealers do not know their product well enough to even discern an indica from a sativa. Dispensaries, however, have knowledgeable staff who can direct their clientele to a strain of marijuana that will be beneficial because not all marijuana is the same.

Some cannabis strains make us laugh, dance, feel good about ourselves (sativas) while other strains do wonders for helping us sleep, relieve pain, or enjoy a sedate activity like movie watching (indicas). Knowing what medication we are using is hugely important because no one wants to inhale a wide-awake sativa before bed.

Consuming cannabis to manage my pain has allowed me to live the life I’ve wanted to live. With cannabis I’ve acquired two diplomas and now manage a successful freelance career.

I’m not sure what my life would be like without cannabis and I’m not interested in finding out what it’d be like. With marijuana I get the control over my illness that I need to feel functional, a control pills do not give me.