"This program failed those it was intended to help, the patients."

I was in a car accident in 1996 and due to the nature and extent of my injuries, any surgeries would leave me in pain for the rest of my life. I was placed on opiate pain management during rehab and had been taking opiates for over 20 years. I am glad I am not dead at this point, as many already are. 

When I was visiting a friend in a state with legal medical marijuanamy friend offered to let me try it and make my own decision on if it works. I woke in the morning and avoided my poison (opiate) pills and took a few vapes off the marijuana pen he lent me. The relief set in within minutes, not an hour like the pills. My mood was better, I was no longer a zombie, and I could function. I had to use the pen more than taking the pills, but I could live life – and live it with much less pain, even less than the pills. 

When PA finally passed medical marijuana legislation, I thought my days of pills were over and a new life would begin for me. I was an early enrollee months before sales started. It cost money to get enrolled and even more for doctors since insurance cannot touch the medical marijuana industry ($25 for reduced ID and $150 for the doctor). Then prices started coming out, and I was floored. I went from paying $5 a month to a pharmacist for opioid pills to a projected total of over $9,000 a month for medical marijuana, which was impossible to conceive or for me to afford. It was impossible for me to pay for 150 grams of Concentrate at $65 per gram. The addition of flower did not help when a vaporizer costs $300 and the cannabis cost $50-$65 for 3.5 grams (1/8th ounce). 

The program failed those it was set up to help in the first place and it was replaced with profit driven motives. The Department of Health said to let the “free market” set the prices. The program is a closed, highly regulated market. You cannot apply free market principles if it is not a free market to begin with and when you do, prices get out of line due to greed and the fact that the business model’s sole purpose is to make as high a profit as possible. 

I decided to let my registration in the program expire, and I was forced to go back to those same opiate pills that made me irritable, a zombie, lethargic, and cost me a marriage and a career. It was better than pain, though. After going back to the doctor, I found that a stranglehold has been placed on opiate pain medication prescriptions with all of the issues going on with the epidemic. 

I made a few purchases from different dispensaries when money would allow, hoping that the Pennsylvania Department of Health would institute the price caps allowed under the law. Patients cannot afford what the medication costs after all. I had also hoped that the financial assistance mandated in the law would also help with getting medication. Neither has happened as of this writing and I doubt it ever will. 

I see now that PA’s Program was a “pay to play and reap the rewards” program and a license to get high for people who can afford it. PA’s law does not allow compassionate growers for low income people, nor does it allow those people to grow at home. There is a reason we cannot earn more: most of us have disabilities and that limits income right there. 

Now I am left with not being able to afford medication through the medical marijuana program and not being able to get opiate pain medication through a doctor. So, I am left in pain all the time, 24/7/365 – at night trying to sleep, during the day trying to work, and at meals trying to eat without vomiting from the pain. 

I could go to the black market for marijuana, where the same quality product was half the price. I could also wind up in jail for doing so. Is that what the state wanted? To make criminals of law-abiding citizens? I would hope not, and they won’t make me do it. 

This is why I am sharing my story. This program failed those it was intended to help, the patients. It has become a money-maker for those who have enough for the buy in, and we saw how the second permits went to many from the first round. Thank you to the Department of Health, Our State Houses, and the Governor for leaving patients in pain. You think you did something good for everyone. You didn’t; you failed us. I got relief from cannabis. You ruined it and made it worse. Thanks for nothing. I do not know if there are others like it, though I suspect there are. 

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