ROMEOVILLE – What if I don’t want to smoke? How do I talk to my doctor?
These are just some of the questions that Nicole A. van Rensburg and her brother William Hollander, who as partners operate Midwest Compassion in Romeoville, hear at their informational events, such as the upcoming one scheduled for Saturday.
Hollander and van Rensburg feel it’s their social responsibility to educate the community about treatment options for medical marijuana’s 40 qualifying conditions. These include post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, residual limb pain and fibromyalgia, the most common condition, van Rensburg said.
So far, chronic pain and/or severe pain do not qualify.
“We’re hopeful they’ll get added at some point,” van Rensburg said.
Why? Because many people with that level of pain are using opioids or self-medication with cannabis illegally acquired, Hollander said.
“They’re finding that medical cannabis is far less addictive [than opioids] and far less dangerous,” Hollander said.
Here are some of the topics Midwest Compassion addresses at its informational events.
You mean, I really don’t have to smoke it?
Many people are surprised to learn that medical marijuana is available in products that don’t require smoking and don’t sedate the user, which is important for active patients and those caring for children, van Rensburg said.
“We have edibles to topicals to suppositories,” van Rensburg said. “We have capsules; we have concentrates. Some of the more innovative products on the market are edible, like a tea or a coffee. Suppositories are especially popular for people who don’t want to smoke because it’s fast-acting and able to bypass the liver. There are products that can be applied as a lotion.”
How do I get it?
Although people understand medical marijuana is legal, Hollander said, they are unaware of the application process. The best way is to approach their doctors, who play a crucial role in that process, Van Rensburg said.
Applicants must show proof of residence in Illinois along with a photo ID and being fingerprinted. Completing the necessary forms can be done online or via snail mail, van Rensburg said. Midwest Compassion will “hold the patient’s hand through the process,” she added.
The hardest part for many patients is discussing medical marijuana as a treatment option with their doctors. But that is necessary.
“They need to get their physician to certify they have a qualifying condition,” van Rensburg said. Certifying, she added, is not the same as recommending the patient take medical cannabis. “The physician sends his documents separately.”
Some doctors are reluctant to certify their patients since cannabis is not approved as a medicine by the federal Food and Drug Administration, Hollander said. Also, it’s difficult to overturn the stigma for a drug that’s been viewed as “the worst substance in the world” for the past 50 years, he added.
But breaking down barriers will ensure patients feel comfortable introducing the subject with their doctors, Hollander said. The goal is for the public to view marijuana as simply another treatment option for certain health conditions.
“Everyone isn’t supposed to be using it,” Hollander said. “There are times it’s going to be very valuable and, just like any other drug, there are times it’s going to be abused or used improperly.”
Cannabis, again like other medications, might interact negatively with current medications one might need for other conditions. Hollander and van Rensburg suggest starting slowly with medical marijuana and watching for side effects.
“We work very closely with medical professionals and monitor closely for interactions,’ Hollander said.
Will my insurance pay for it?
No, Hollander said, because marijuana is federally illegal.
Who can pick up my cannabis for me?
Only you – and one person designated as your caregiver, Hollander said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Is Medical Marijuana Right For You?
WHEN: 2 p.m. Aug. 20
WERE: White Oak Library District, Crest Hill Branch Library, 20670 Len Kubinski Drive, Crest Hill.
ETC: Free educational seminar.
According to news releases, Midwest Compassion, a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Romeoville, has an outreach team that attends local 5Ks, fairs, support groups and festivals.
So far, the team, which averages three educational events per month, has participated in events with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, The Illinois Veterans Motorcycle Freedom Run and Delnor Hospital’s Fibromyalgia Support Group.
A recent event was held at the Plainfield Community Center in cooperation with the Greater Chicago Epilepsy Association. Midwest Compassion is planning to host a patient networking event at its dispensary within the next few months.
Midwest Compassion was selected by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) as the sole dispensary to serve on a recent panel at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Recently. Midwest Compassion participated in a research study with the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance regarding community education and outreach.