Dear Attorney General Sessions,
You don’t know me. My name is Michaela, I’m 20, and I’m a college student with big dreams for my future. I like comedy writing, going to the beach, and studying topics such as media, public relations, and political science. I also depend on medical marijuana to do all of these things.
You see, Mr. Sessions, I was born with a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This essentially means that my collagen, aka the “glue” that holds my body together, is defective. This affects my entire body and creates massive amounts of daily pain. Pain that, for years of my life, was quite debilitating. I also deal with a lot of side effects of having faulty collagen such as GI issues, including gastroparesis, a condition that causes nausea and vomiting after eating. This condition is only aggravated by opioids.
Now, I’ve been put on almost every pain medication in the book. Some more dangerous than others. When I was 12, I was told I could be put on methadone, despite the fact it basically turned me into a zombie. I once had a doctor tell me I’ll likely die in my sleep on these meds or become an addict, but then walk out of the room like nothing unusual was said. Just last week, after my latest surgery, a doctor was planning on sending me home on a combination of medications to help me including Fentanyl. She returned to the room 30 minutes later, white in the face. She informed me that she had spoken to my pain management specialist and was told that based on my history and how my body responds to opiods, Fentanyl could have killed me.
Opioids clearly are not a good solution for me; or a good long-term solution that I have any interest in. But my level of daily pain doesn’t allow me to go without relief of some sort. Because of my condition, I sublux or partially dislocate joints, sometimes several times a day. If you think it hurts less because it happens so often, you are wrong. It hurts every time. On top of this, my entire spine is fused, which as you can imagine, is also painful on its own. In other words, I don’t have the luxury of dealing with the type of pain that you can just “tough out” and “take a Tylenol”. So, reluctantly, my parents agreed to allow me to try medical marijuana.
I take my medicine in the forms of oil, hard candies, and capsules. For acute situations (aka times where my pain is too much to wait 1-2 hours), I’ll smoke high-CBD flower or vape. It amazes me the relief I am getting, with no side effects. Medical marijuana has allowed me to have a fairly “normal” quality of life, I no longer rely on mobility devices, I was able to go to college out of state, I’m finally sleeping at night, and my gastroparesis has calmed down significantly. I do not get “high” from my medication, but more importantly, I don’t run the risk of accidentally overdosing and losing my life.
Here’s the thing, Mr. Sessions (can I call you Jeff? I’m gonna call you Jeff) — you can’t declare the opioid crisis a national emergency while actively trying to limit access to medical marijuana. In fact, the best thing you could do to solve this problem is to put time and resources into cannabis and research. Especially when it comes to chronic pain patients. Opioid dependency and addiction is a very real problem plaguing this country, that is not something I am denying or downplaying. With that being said, it just makes sense that medical marijuana should be legalized throughout this country. While I am lucky enough to live in a state where I have access to cannabis, I know many people with the same condition that are afraid to even try due to fear of getting into trouble with the law. Additionally, I can’t take my medication with me if I were to go on vacation, or even cross state lines for a doctor’s appointment or family visit. I’m left with the choice that nobody should have to make: either be in debilitating pain, or risk getting caught and charged with drug smuggling. My illness doesn’t disappear when I cross the border into another state. Why is it that highly-addictive and incredibly dangerous prescription drugs like oxycontin, fentanyl, morphine, etc. are considered legal, but a plant (with proven benefits) is not? Shouldn’t this safer and arguably more effective form of medication be available at a federal level?
I’m just a college student. While I am learning more each day, I’ll admit that I have a limited knowledge of both the inner workings of the government and the science behind all of this. So, maybe what I’m suggesting is too simple. However, I am writing to you as a young girl who is terrified. I am terrified that you will change the laws and make it so that myself, and millions of other chronic pain patients, no longer have access to this life-changing medication. I am terrified that I will become bedridden and debilitated without medical marijuana, and my only option will be to use opioids for pain relief. I’m terrified that those opioids will eventually kill me.
Jeff, you’ve been very open about the fact that you’re a religious man. So, let me level with you here. Why does it make sense that a plant, something that you believe was put on earth by God, should be outlawed? If a natural remedy works, and has the potential to keep people off of opioids, doesn’t it make sense to utilize that instead of chemically manufactured drugs? Or at least further examine the benefits and drawbacks of using cannabis? I honestly understand your train of thought, you grew up in a time where marijuana was a street drug that came with a lot of negative connotations. But it’s 2018, and it’s time to start looking into better, safer options for Americans with pain and illness.
Michaela has lived with chronic pain since the age of 12. She has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and has undergone five spine surgeries over the last 7 years including three fusions, one fusion revision and tethered cord release. She is determined not to let her pain stop her from living the life she wants to live. She writes and blogs in her free time and enjoys going to school, attending concerts and hanging out with her friends.