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My Doctor Couldn't Prescribe Medical Marijuana; a Stranger Could 

click to enlarge medical.jpg

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Weed culture disgusts me. I hate tie-dye. I hate jam music. I hate sandals. And I really hate Joe Rogan. Wow, do I hate Joe Rogan. That guy can fuck right off.

But, man, cannabis really works for my chronic pain.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is a disorder of the connective tissue. Basically, my collagen is faulty. As you've seen in many skin-care commercials, collagen is the glue that holds everything together — and mine sucks. My connective tissues are far too loose. This means that my bones fall out of joint and I dislocate constantly. My skin tears easily. I bruise frequently and impressively. My organs are prone to rupture. My everything wants to fall away from my everything else, basically. My body is unstable, unsettled and unhappy.

As you can imagine, this is all very painful. Because of this, my doctors have been trying to get me to take opioids since I was a kid. I've always refused — for me it always seemed like the first step into the abyss. When you have chronic pain and are on painkillers, medications often have to be increased until they're maxed out. Meds also have side effects, and then those side effects have to be managed, and then they cause some other issue, and then your whole life becomes a never-ending loop of constant medical intervention and trying to balance everything.

I don't doubt that I will have to start taking opioids one day in the future; I'm just trying to put it off as long as I can. My doctors are confused by me, routinely insisting that proper pain management with pills would increase my quality of life. But honestly, what do they know? They don't live in my body; I do. And if I'd started taking their highly addictive pain medications when they wanted me to years ago, I'm positive that I'd be dead by now. So I'm putting it off as long as I can, damn it.

But as my pain got worse with age, I realized that I had to do something. Never a weed smoker (type-A control freak, can't chill), my exploration into marijuana as medicine began as an adult just a few years ago. Marijuana worked for other people with EDS, so I gave it a try.

And yep, weed works — and it doesn't have any medical side effects. And it helps me sleep. And it stops my muscle spasms. It's like a multi-functioning miracle substance.

To this day, my cannabis consumption remains very low. Sometimes I don't take any for months or a year, even. But when I really need it, it always helps me out.

So when medical marijuana became a possibility in Missouri, I knew that I wanted to get registered. And because I have a whole team of doctors willing to prescribe me heavy narcotics, I thought getting approved would be easy. I was wrong.

My doctors could prescribe me oxycontin, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine or fentanyl with ease, but none of them could get me signed up for medical marijuana. Why? They're all affiliated with the same hospital, and the hospital has a rule against prescribing weed.

I spoke with my primary-care doctor and asked if he'd prescribe marijuana for me if he was allowed. He said "absolutely" and called me an "ideal candidate." But his hands were tied. I had to look elsewhere.

So I went to track down a woman known as "Doctor Z" from the "CannaBus." She's a traveling doctor who has driven all over Missouri, licensing patients in boutiques and headshops. She's famous in this state as the woman who can get you all set up, and quickly.

As it turns out, she also has a wellness spa in Brentwood and often meets patients there, too. Located on the ground floor of that tall Brutalist building across the street from Whole Foods is Dr. Zinia Thomas' spa, called Radiance Float + Wellness (1760 South Brentwood Boulevard, 314-736-4736). It's just like many other spas in that it has a salt room and a float tank and it offers many treatments of dubious "new age" pedigree. It also has a small, tasteful cabinet of bongs for sale — but that's the only indication that this place is involved with any cannabis business.

click to enlarge Along with a float tank and salt room, the Brentwood spa offered a path to medical marijuana when the author's doctors would not. - JAIME LEES
  • JAIME LEES
  • Along with a float tank and salt room, the Brentwood spa offered a path to medical marijuana when the author's doctors would not.

I visited on February 14 last year, because the spa was running a two-for-one deal for Valentine's Day. Doctor Z usually charges about $125 for an appointment to get a license, but during this sale you could bring in your sweetheart and both of you could get licensed for just $160. The deal seemed too good to pass up.

We didn't know if we'd be met with crowds or a line or what the situation was, honestly, so when we got there we were relieved to find just a calm, mostly empty spa. We told the receptionist why we stopped in, and she handed us two iPads on which to fill out our personal information and to answer about ten questions about our anxiety levels, because anxiety is the symptom that Doctor Z uses to prescribe. We answered honestly, without even a bit of exaggeration — it was a scary time in this country, so the truth revealed our high anxiety levels.

Then we waited for the doctor. The receptionist said she wasn't there at the moment but that she'd be in soon, so to kill time the friendly and accommodating employees offered us a tour of the small facility. When we were finished with that they let us hang out for a few minutes and then took us into a consultation room. Doctor Z did not show up in person, but on video. One of her assistants brought in an iPad and set it up in front of us. The doctor then gave us our consultation via video.

During our video call, she explained to us how the system worked and what the next steps would be before asking if we had any questions. As impersonal as a video chat might seem, we both felt that she was kind and caring, so that was unexpected and nice.

And then we were done. We received our papers from an employee and were then on our own to submit them to the state of Missouri for final approval.

After years of hoping and praying that I could legally get my preferred medicine and being denied by the doctors who have known me for years, I was instead given permission to carry it from a doctor that I'd never actually met face to face. Was that it? Did this system really work? Was I getting ripped off? Did I just pay a good chunk of money for a piece of paper that would do me no good?

I submitted it to the state to find out. It cost about $25 for Missouri to process it (and you can send in a photo of your paperwork — you don't even need to track down a scanner), and less than a week later, it was done.

I got an email from the state of Missouri, logged back into my account and then printed myself my own card. They don't send you an official card in the mail or anything, so it seems a little weird to print your own on a regular sheet of paper, but it does include your ID number and all of that on it.

That's it. That's all it took. What my specialists and longtime medical professionals couldn't get done for me was fixed with just $80 and the equivalent of a quick FaceTime chat with your awesome aunt. Unbelievable.

I'm grateful that there are doctors out there like Doctor Z who are paving the way. (And truth be told, they're also cashing in. Massively.)

It seems so messed up that I have to go to a stranger for a diagnosis to get a medicine that my doctor should be able to give me directly, but it's not surprising — the entire health-care system in this country is beyond broken. You just have to find ways to make it work for you.

The medical marijuana card system is very familiar: Pay your money, get your freedom. It's just like everything else in America, really.

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