“That’s when I tried cannabis,” Traun said. “I actually started as a recreational user, but I quickly found that after I used it I was actually able to eat a little bit. A few months later I was in remission, and that’s how it’s been for five years now.”
Traun said blood tests since showed year-over-year lessening of her intestinal inflammation, although she still suffers occasional nausea. She used to smoke marijuana, but more recently switched to a vaporizer. Traun said she also keeps a supply of hash oil on hand because it helps allay particularly severe instances of nausea, but she doesn’t want to have to use it regularly.
“People say marijuana treats the symptoms but not the disease,” Traun said. “But I believe it’s treating my disease itself. I believe I have to vaporize daily to stay in remission.”
Traun is not the only person who lobbied for the medical marijuana law and is eligible to join but leaning against it. Under the law, patients who enroll in a registry administered by the Department of Health will have their usage and outcomes monitored in what’s being described as “observational research.” The goal is to get patients access to the drug starting July 1, 2015.
Access at a price
But there’s one big catch for those who already partake.
Patients who enroll in the program face greater legal jeopardy if they supplement with illegal plant marijuana.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor, but participants in the new program caught with the plant form can be jailed for up to 90 days, fined $1,000 and expelled from the program.
“I think I’m going to have to stick with my current arrangement,” said Patrick McClellan, a 47-year-old Bloomington resident who treats severe pain from muscular dystrophy by vaporizing plant marijuana that he buys illegally.
He was a fixture at the Capitol while lawmakers debated medical marijuana earlier this year, and was among a group of advocates who met privately with Dayton in March.
“If I were to get into this program, and I get the oil and it’s way too powerful and then I decide to go back to leaf, I could be prosecuted,” McClellan said.
When McClellan feels symptoms starting, he puts a small amount of leaf marijuana in his vaporizer and takes one or two light puffs.
He’s worried if he were forced to vaporize oil, “I would get stoned out of my mind. Patients don’t want to be high. We just want to treat our symptoms.”
Kendra Miller, a 26-year-old registered nurse and Crohn’s sufferer from St. Louis Park, also lobbied at the Capitol multiple times.
She said that if the new law offered access to plant marijuana, she’d probably surrender her nurse’s license and enroll. Miller does not believe the state would allow her to keep her nurse’s license and be in the program.
“I don’t believe this plan has enough of a likelihood of working, that doing that would be worth it for me,” she said.
According to the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbies for legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, the other 21 states with medical marijuana laws all allow patients to possess and smoke plant material. Fifteen of those states allow patients to grow their own plants.