Medical marijuana? Yes, please!

OPINION

  • Medical marijuana is shown in a jar at The Joint Cooperative in Seattle.
Medical marijuana is shown in a jar at The Joint Cooperative in Seattle. (Cliff DesPeaux / REUTERS )
January 01, 2014|By Katelyn Harper, @snarkyserif | RedEye

Hey there. My name is Katelyn. I'm 22 and looking to get into medical marijuana.

Well, that escalated quickly.

While most people probably go straight to older people and cancer patients when they think of the typical medical marijuana user, there are actually a bunch of less-publicized ailments that can qualify you to pick up pot, which became legal in Illinois on Wednesday. People with glaucoma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), dystonia or Crohn's disease are on the list too, among others.

For myself and many of the scores of people—young and old—who have these conditions, Jan. 1 couldn't come soon enough. The legalization of medical pot could help us manage our symptoms.

I've had Crohn's disease for seven years. It's a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. To skip the TMI details, let's just say I spend quite a bit of time in the bathroom and have a much higher risk for colon cancer.

Gov. Quinn signed legislation into law this summer that made Illinois the 20th state to authorize the distribution and patient use of physician-recommended medical marijuana. A patient must have one of 40 approved conditions to be eligible for up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. There also will be 60 state-licensed dispensaries and 22 cannabis cultivation centers.

Should be simple, right? Not so much.

Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, people are as confused as ever. What if a registered user wants to travel out of state? Or how about a certain college graduate looking for her first big-girl job? Will I be tested by employers—and will the results affect my eligibility? Will we still be able to drive, or will we have to have a special bumper sticker? Could you imagine a "high" version of those annoying family decals?

The assumptions some people have of the typical medical pot user are pretty absurd. They're making it up to get high? Colorado's Board of Health reports that in that state—where medical pot also is legal—94 percent of card-holders identified having severe, chronic pain. The average user age was 42.

Currently, there is no cure for Crohn's or many of the conditions allowed for medical marijuana—just medicines to "ease" the symptoms and (hopefully) get into remission. So when I heard Illinois was allowing it, I was ecstatic. Try to imagine taking up to 25 pills a day, or not being able to spend the night at a certain someone's house because you forgot your nighttime meds. Better yet, how about having to "upgrade" to a shot in your thigh every two weeks?

The alternative that medical marijuana gives us is more than just a high—it's a chance to live a (somewhat) normal life. My fellow Crohn's sufferers who are actively trying to get better have already tried multiple variations of medicine, sometimes even surgery and radiation.

We know medical marijuana won't cure us, but how about you just let us get our legal munchies and live our lives?

Katelyn Harper is a RedEye social media coordinator.

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