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420 Times: The Faces of Medical Marijuana

October 9, 2010

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the420times | Sep 21, 2010 |

An Interview With Elisa Clark

By LARRY LECHUGA

Frustrated that she couldn’t locate quality medicine close to her residence in Washington, Elisa Clark, a 38-year-old mom and wife, took matters into her own hands by founding Pacific NW Compassionate Care, an organization which attempts to provide an informative resource for patients of medical marijuana. As for herself, she turned to marijuana after having a negative reaction to prescription medicines. Medical marijuana, she says, successfully helps her manage her fibromyalgia and post traumatic stress disorder.

420T Please tell us a little bit about yourself — what is your age and occupation?

EC I am a 38-year-old mom, wife, medical marijuana activist, and founder of Pacific NW Compassionate Care.

420T Could you give us a little background on your medical condition (what is it, how did it come about, how does it affect your day-to-day life, etc.)?

EC I use medical marijuana for pain caused by fibromyalgia and for anxiety caused by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Having both of these medical conditions is tricky because the PTSD affects the fibromyalgia — stress from the PTSD anxiety flares the fibromyalgia pain. I believe the fibromyalgia is a result of so many years battling the PTSD.

My fibromyalgia is kept in check, for the most part, as long as my anxiety level is down. I try really hard not to let pain stop me from doing things that need to be done. I have a family and five acres of land to care for, so staying down is not something I have much time or tolerance for. There are periods of time during the winter months when my body is affected more by the fibromyalgia. It can be a challenge some days during those months, but with proper diet, exercise, and medical marijuana intake, it’s completely manageable.

PTSD is my biggest challenge. I deal with anxiety, anger, and, at times, depression. It’s sort of a vicious cycle because if I start feeling depressed, I get mad because I’m letting it get to me. PTSD is a constant fight, and it is very difficult at times for my family, friends, and myself. I get really frustrated when I am having a flare up and I am unable to explain to family members what’s going on with me. The medical marijuana helps me get to a place in my mind where I am calm enough to sort through the crap that the disorder puts in your mind. Fortunately, we live out in the country, so I can get outside and use nature as my escape. I have recently acquired a greenhouse, so that will be a great way for me to refocus my mind when I need to as well as contribute to my medicinal needs.

420T How did you learn about medical cannabis as a possible method of helping manage your condition?

EC I had a grandfather who grew marijuana in Idaho. He grew it for my grandmother who had horrible restless leg syndrome (RLS). She took a lot of big pharmaceutical pills to manage her pain but with little result. Since I am unable to take pharmaceuticals because of sensitivity to chemicals in them, I decided to try grandma and grandpa’s method of managing pain. I have been using marijuana regularly to treat my anxiety and pain since 1992.

420T Have you tried medication other than medical cannabis to help you deal with your condition? Has medical marijuana proved to be a more effective alternative than the medication?

EC I have tried several different drugs to help deal with my conditions. It was horrible. There is a three-year period of time that I cannot remember because of the psychiatric and pain management drugs I was prescribed by my doctors. I had the worst reaction to the drugs I was prescribed. The more I complained (or my husband complained) about the side effects, the more the doctors would pile on. I even started losing my hair at one point.

I was trapped in a world of healthcare professionals that treated everyone who walked through their revolving door with the pills of the week. Something inside me finally snapped, and I decided that I wasn’t going to get the help I needed from doctors who were “scrip happy.” I dumped the prescription meds and kept the marijuana. For the last 6 years, I have used nothing but marijuana and the occasional Tylenol for pain and anxiety management.

420T Are there any particular strains of marijuana that are especially helpful in relieving the symptoms of your condition?

EC I have tried many strains of marijuana throughout the years. When I lived in California, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a lot of dispensaries and patient centers that offered some great meds. Of all the strains I tried in California, my favorite was Candy Cane Brain. I bought it in a dispensary in Sacramento. It was a great body high without fogging your brain. Brain fog is not something I like, so I tend to go for strains that are more on the Sativa side. I do like to keep a strong Indica strain on hand for nights when sleep is difficult, or my pain level is up. I would have to say that my all time favorite strain is good old-fashioned Train Wreck. I like the way it smells and tastes. It leaves a fabulous taste and feeling on your palate and is great for pain management. I would love to add this strain to my garden. Currently, I am using three different strains: Afghani Goo, Lollipop, and THC Bomb. All three are fantastic strains that I would recommend to any patient dealing with similar medical issues.

420T How do you intake your medical cannabis (joints, baked goods, vaporizer, etc.)? Do you find one method of intake more effective than others?

EC I smoke most of my marijuana. I admit that I enjoy smoking it even though it is not the healthiest way. However, I also use a variety of edibles from time to time: baked goods (cookies, brownies, cake), chocolates, peanut butter cups, cinnamon hard candy, organic salsa, etc. I also use an absinthe based tincture — just a couple of drops under the tongue. I have found that eating marijuana is the best way to cope with insomnia.

420T I see that you are the founder of Pacific NW Compassionate Care. Can you maybe talk a little about what the organization does and what it tries to achieve?

EC Pacific NW Compassionate Care (PNWCC) is an aspiring medical marijuana cooperative. I have been working for over a year meeting people, talking to politicians, law enforcement, patients, growers, business owners, and neighbors about medical marijuana and the possibility of a co-op opening a center in Vancouver, WA. Our goal is to have a group of medical marijuana patientgrowers who will be able to help other medical marijuana patients with their medicinal needs. We also want to be a positive part of the community by contributing to food banks, schools, alcohol/drug treatment organizations, and any other organization that we see fit. PNWCC hopes to gather good people with the best of intentions to legally and ethically operate a patient center to serve the medical marijuana patients of SW Washington while embracing the spirit of our community.

420T Was there anything in particular that led you to start up Pacific NW Compassionate Care? Did it perhaps have anything to do with your experience as a medical marijuana patient?

EC I started PNWCC because of my frustration in safely locating quality medicine after I moved back to the Portland/Vancouver area. In Washington state, medical marijuana patients are left with absolutely zero resources for obtaining quality and safe medicine. You are simply issued your recommendation by your doctor and sent out the door to figure out where your meds will come from on your own. For a lot of patients, this is a daunting task. They end up being forced to go to the black market for their meds. I absolutely refuse to be that patient sitting in a parking lot waiting for a dealer to show up with my bag of meds. There is nothing safe, legal, or ethical about that scenario.

I assume that if I don’t want to be placed in that situation then there must be many others who feel the same way. Can you imagine an 80-year-old granny with arthritis calling up her grandson’s dealer and meeting him in a parking lot for her meds? No way. The thought of patients having to be subjected to this type of scene is aggravating.

There has to be a place where people can go — that is not in someone’s house or in a parking lot or
park — to be educated about the law, their rights and responsibilities, and have a variety of quality
meds to choose from. I am outspoken about dispensaries or patient centers who are clearly operating without the spirit of the law or the best interest of the patients in mind. I say get the scumbags out of
the medical marijuana industry. All members of PNWCC are educated about Washington State’s medical marijuana law along with their rights and responsibilities. PNWCC feels that it is important to focus on the responsibility part. So many patients have the “rights” part down, but forget that we do have a responsibility to be good, law-abiding citizens as well.

Because medical marijuana is a fairly new concept to a lot of folks, it is important to educate people as well as show them that medical marijuana patients are not just “stoners.” But, with that, law enforcement has to get with the program and be trained how to legally and properly deal with medical marijuana related issues. The bottom line is that medical marijuana patients need a place to obtain their medicine. It is completely unreasonable to send patients out to the black market or to think that all medical marijuana patients can grow their own medicine. PNWCC hopes to fulfill that need.

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