Billings Patient, One of Thousands of Montanans Being Left Behind Without Access To Medicine

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This week patients are feeling the effects of new restrictions because of SB 423. As of August 31st, over 12,000 patients across the state lost safe and legal access to their medicine. This is a difficult and anxious time for sick and suffering Montanans. We cannot ignore that there are thousands of our fellow Montanans who benefit from medical marijuana and that the implementation of SB 423 is cruel and dangerous. Now patients will be required to go back to addictive opiate drugs and pain killers. Kati Wetch, a medical marijuana patient in Billings, tells her story to ensure that her voice is heard and that we do not leave behind thousands of our fellow Montanans when they need the support of their communities the most.

"The new restrictions on medical marijuana going into effect this week will be devastating for patients. I know first-hand because I am a medical marijuana patient and have been for the past 10 years. Medical marijuana allows me to effectively treat my medical condition in a safer way and without the complications associated with the pharmaceuticals I would otherwise need to use.

I have an incurable disease, Arnold Chiari Malformation and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. These ailments typically would cause my brain to herniate into my spinal cord. I had my first brain surgery when I was 14 and have undergone multiple brain and spinal procedures that have saved my life but have also caused me severe pain.

Two titanium rods are attached to my skull and 28 screws and plates hold my head up off my spine. The hardware allows me to live a functioning life but I live every day with immense pain. In order to treat my chronic pain, I became the first medical marijuana patient in the state of Montana under the age of 18. I know what it means to be a sick person and I have found the only medicine that works for me is medical marijuana. It allows me to live a full life.

Last week, I traveled to Helena to stand with Bob Ream, who has called on Attorney General Tim Fox to delay enforcement of the new restrictions because of the devastating effect they will have on sick and dying people. I joined two other medical marijuana patients in delivering comments from more than 1,000 Montanans calling on the attorney general to minimize the impact these new restrictions will have on patients like me.

The new restrictions include limiting providers to only three patients, causing more than 12,000 Montanans to lose access to their medicine. I am one of thousands of Montanans that live with pain and deserve safe and legal access to medicine that offers relief. Without that access, patients face a choice of turning to the black market and becoming a criminal, moving to another state, or relying on dangerous and addictive opiate pain killers.

These new restrictions put Montanans at risk for becoming dependent on opioids. The Center for Disease Control has warned that our nation faces a prescription pain pill epidemic. Medical marijuana is far less addictive and has zero cases of death by overdose. It offers a safer alternative for pain patients, but that alternative is being taken away in Montana.

As a patient, I cannot imagine going back to narcotics. While they may dull pain, they are a Catch-22. If I take them, I have absolutely no appetite to eat due to nausea, and if I do not eat, I am unable to function and lead a fulfilling life as every person deserves. Pills drain my ambition and potential to live my life to the fullest.

In 2004, Montana voters made a clear statement, voting to create the first medical marijuana program with 62 percent support. But the Legislature went against the will of the voters passing these new restrictions into law. With the new restrictions going into effect, I am scared – scared for the almost three months of pain ahead of me without my medicine.

But there is hope. Montanans will be voting on I-182 in November. Voting yes on I-182 will create a workable, responsible and accountable medical marijuana program. I encourage all Montanans to turn out and vote yes on I-182 to ensure that I and all the other sick Montanans who benefit from medical marijuana have safe, legal access to their medicine."

Find her story in the Billings Gazette HERE. Like and Share on Facebook and Twitter to show your support and remember to tag #yeson182.