Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Process

I decided to go with Alternative Medical Choices to get my medical marijuana recommendation. I really liked that they offered other services, besides Medical Marijuana recommendations. They also have therapeutic massage, acupuncture, Reiki, and yoga. The steps for the approval process are similar throughout the different clinics...

When I went to the appointment to see the doctor, I was very nervous. I dislike doctors greatly, and most of the ones I've talked to about my Marijuana use have told me to quit using it because it is harmful, and pretty much all of them were not very receptive to my telling them otherwise. I also hate being poked and prodded and compared to textbook statistics and symptoms. I've had a couple doctors tell me that I am making everything up, I've had others tell me I was I addicted to the pain pills THEY prescribed for me and told me to take. When a certain medication doesn't work or makes me feel horrible, I've even had doctors tell me that I couldn't possibly know what I am talking about and that I wouldn't know the difference between "the real medication and a sugar pill."

So I was not too eager to go see another doctor. Regardless that it was specifically for Medical Marijuana.

The clinic was very nice and welcoming. It looked like it used to be a house that had been converted into office space. It was very professional, and I was treated exactly like a patient. I was asked to fill out forms including receipt of HIPPA, provide my medical records and identification to be copied for their files, and then I was taken to a room in the back for their nurse to record my vitals. The nurse was very kind and she checked things like my weight, pulse, and blood pressure. After she had performed all the essential tests and discussed with me my medical record as she took notes, I was taken back to waiting room, instead of being left to sit and wait for the doctor in that little room. (Which I absolutely detest doing by the way.)

Just as I began to sit down, the doctor was ready to see me. He was very kind, and listened intently as I explained my medical history. He performed his own tests, such as listening to my lungs, and checking my abdomen where I showed him it hurt. He went over the doctors notes, discussed my previous medications, and then asked questions as he filled out the paperwork for the medical recommendation. I was amazed at how much time the doctor actually spent with me. Most doctors are in and out of the room so fast you almost wonder if they were ever actually there to begin with as you sit and wait for them to come back with a prescription. This doctor took the time to discuss the risks and benefits of the medication with me, and made sure that I didn't have any questions before handing my own file to me to be taken up to the nurse. I was able to look at every thing the doctor had written, and after the nurses at the front went over everything with me (like where to take the recommendation for filing with OMMP), they gave me back all of my original files, the original medical recommendation, as well as copies of the doctors notes for MY RECORDS. They also gave me a map of where to find the OMMP office, which was only a short distance away from where the clinic was located so I could immediately file my paperwork. (You have 90 days, but protection doesn't begin until it is stamped received by OMMP)

But it wasn't until after all of that was all completed that they requested payment. Usually when I go to the doctor, I have to give them a copy of my insurance first thing. Payment first, health care second.  I absolutely loved the atmosphere and the quality of care I received during the entire experience.

So, shortly after receiving my recommendation, I submitted the paperwork to the OMMP.

The paperwork requires that you fill out patient information, care giver information (if applicable), grower information, and grow location.

The OMMP office is on the second floor of the Department of Human Services building. Be sure to get there by 4:45 or you do not get a number and you can't get in without a number. (or so I was told)

After they give you a number, you wait in line. There were like 5 people before me when I got there at 4:42pm. (talk about stressful, stupid Portland traffic)
The cost to file is $100, or $20 with proof of assistance. Bring copies of all proof of assistance and your drivers license, and the license of your caregiver, and grower.

When your number is called, you go into a room with two windows divided by a wall. It is very private. There isn't anyone waiting in a line behind you. You give your paperwork to the clerk, who makes sure it is all in order. Then it is stamped and you are given a receipt for payment, and a 1 full set of copies, and 2 copies of the original application. These are also stamped. The clerk explains how you are protected and when you will receive your cards. It happens very quickly. The greatest thing is that the moment that paperwork is stamped, you become a legal Medical Marijuana patient in the state of Oregon.

After almost 6 years of having no other choice but to illegally consume the only medication that gives me a better quality of life and allows me to be a functioning mother for my family, I am finally legal under state law.

Unfortunately, federal law continues to apply, despite that the law contradicts state law and is unconstitutional.
So we keep moving forward in our fight to make this miraculous medicine available to everyone.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hurdle #2

From what I've learned, most doctors here in Oregon won't even discuss Cannabis, much less write a recommendation for it, because of their justified fear of losing their medical license and their job.

In order to obtain a recommendation from a licensed Medical physician, as the law requires, a patient must find a compassionate and understanding doctor who knows that Cannabis is medicine and is willing to provide a recommendation. Fortunately, numerous groups around the State have found doctors who are willing to write medical marijuana recommendations for special visits in their clinics.

Although Medical Marijuana is legal and recognized in the State of Oregon, the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) does not cover Cannabis related medical visits because it is a federally funded program. So the next hurdle becomes finding the right clinic and coming up with the money to see the doctor. This is especially difficult on a fixed income, when most of your money goes towards a roof over your head, food to eat, and bills.

I googled the keywords Medical Marijuana recommendations and Oregon and found several Medical Marijuana referral clinics in the Portland area.

The first one I found was MAMA or Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (which, with my work with Moms for Marijuana, was very intriguing).

After perusing their website, I found their price list for medical referrals.

I also found a clinic called Alternative Medical Choices. Their prices were also on their site and they offer a fee for those who receive assistance, such as food-stamps, Social Security, or medical insurance through the Oregon Health Plan.

And I found a clinic called THCF or The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation. They have several clinics around the state, not just the Portland area, as well as clinics in other Medical Marijuana States. Their doctors are licensed to practice medicine in multiple states. Their fees were not listed on the site, so I sent them an email. I received a response within 24 hours with a price list. They also offer a fee for those who are on assistance.

The next step is picking one and coming up with the money...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hurdle #1

Oregon law requires that you have at least three visits worth of doctor's notes from the last three years, one within the last 12 months. 

This was a difficult one for me because it's been more than a year since I saw my last doctor and told them I am not going to try anything else except Cannabis. I tried to get the doctor to help me figure out how to dose it correctly, but was practically laughed at. 

I called around to all the clinics in my area, looking for a provider who accepted disability health insurance and the clinic was either not accepting new patients or there were not any openings for many months.

So I went into a walk-in clinic to get a new documentation of my illness, as required by state law. I was discussing my condition with the doctor on call, a little dowdy lady with very cold hands. I discussed my use of medications before and after my diagnosis. The pain killers like Oxycotin, Percocet, Darvocet, Hydrocodone... The Elmiron, the anti-histamine cocktails they gave me through a catheter, diet, physical therapy, and eventually back to Cannabis. By the end of the visit, she had offered me prescription pain pills, anti-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory meds. I finally agreed to with Naproxen, an anti-inflammatory that I rarely ever take (only when meds run out for a long time) 

I had just begun to get a cold and shamefully admit I am a cigarette smoker. She also prescribed an inhaler and told me to quit smoking cigarettes (of course!) . Then she told me to stop using marijuana because it causes lung cancer...

I could barely hold in the flood of information about cannabis and cancer but decided that I would just say that what she said was ironic cause Cannabis kills cancer cells (plant a seed!). I figured since I knew her name, and where she worked, I would just mail her some information later.

After the appointment, I put in a release for medical records to provide to the doctor I will see when I get my medical marijuana referral. The guy at the front desk said I should have it within a week. It took 3 phone calls and a trip back to the clinic, but I finally got my records.

And of course noted at the bottom:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Following the green brick road in Potland, Oregon

It's been a little bit since I've written here. Life has just been a carousel of trying to find a balance between pain and activity and it has really worn on me lately. I am also still trying to get used to the sporadic rain storms of this beautiful area. The pressure of the rain clouds settling in seems to aggravate my condition.

It has seemed like it will never end. The single thought that I am in a medical state and that it is only a matter of time and money until I am "legal" in the eyes of the State is the only thing that keeps the despair at bay. Cycles of depression and sleepless nights from lack of medication (or even just the needing the correct medication) are draining me of all energy. I often had better access and more consistency of medication in Boise, in a non-Medical state.

But finally! I am just a breath away from meeting with a doctor to discuss a medical recommendation for Cannabis. I have no idea what the future holds. I've heard stories, seen shows, and some what understand the process. I've seen the gleam in the eyes of patients who know. And now I am finally going to start down that road to *hopefully* quality and quantity and consistent relief. Not to forget legal protection (to an extent). I have been waiting for this for a very long time. I continue to help the fight towards medical choice in my home state of Idaho, and I hope to use my new adventure to someday help others understand what its like to move to a medical state.

So I am going to try to document this journey as openly as possible. Hopefully someone will someday read this and figure out how to get over the hurdles involved in moving to a medical state to obtain a medical Marijuana card.....