Is it time to come out of the shadows and speak on this issue? I know thousands like me are scared to voice what they believe to be true, their own experiences reflecting what is already accepted the world over, that cannabis is a valid medicine with useful applications.
When you spend years in chronic pain while suffering from seizures of unknown origin, high levels of inflammation and the chemical after-effects of other medications prescribed to you, you can resort to taking matters into your own hands.
Who could reasonably blame you for wanting to alleviate the symptoms that are crippling you? Someone tells you "try this" and hello, normality returns for a short time. No longer are you a disabled useless burden to society, the relief is as immediate as inhaling the smoke from a joint.
The high sought after by recreational users does not last. The human body processes THC very quickly and the euphoric effects are fleeting. But I am sure most chronically ill cannabis users will agree that the benefits are still there when the high wears off, lasting two to three days before the full return of symptomology.
Most of the older generations reading this are probably thinking we just want to be stoned all of the time.
What if I told you the amount I use on a daily basis is not enough to get any recreational user stoned; that my end game here is holding down my job and minimising the symptoms of my chronic illness so I can provide for my family; that the last thing I want to do is jeopardise the career I have built up by facing drug charges.
But most of all, that before using cannabis I was a complete burden to society.
The disability allowance was my income. I was on morphine, gabapentin, tramadol and codeine, and regularly hospitalised for non-epileptic seizures.
I could not walk unaided. I had shed all of my weight down to 45 kilograms, sweating it all out during seizures - some lasting minutes others lasting hours.
My hands were so swollen I could neither open or close them, with large purple swellings across my knuckles from trapped synovial fluid and milder swelling, but no less painful, in my elbows, knees, wrists, and ankles. I had a constant headache/neck ache which lasted literally 10 years before a reasonable treatment could be found.
Eventually I received the diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis with non-epileptic seizures (NES) disorder.
Now I weigh 80 kilograms. I don't take any prescription painkillers other than panadol and an anti-arthritic drug Methotrexate Sandoz, a folic acid supplement to counteract the anti-folic effects of this cytotoxic drug, and for the most part now everything is under control.
At the beginning of this year my supply of cannabis dried up, which happens when you are reliant on a black market. Over the next three months I missed four entire weeks of work, used all of my sick leave and then lost income as a result of being unable to function normally.
I was hospitalised twice and was in phenomenal pain. Walking became difficult, with stilted jerking movements replacing my usual smooth locomotion.
Then the supply returned at the beginning of April and, as rapidly as these symptoms appeared, they vanished. I am back to being normal again.
A normal day for me is the same as you. I get up, shower, have some breakfast, go to work and at the end of the day when I come home I spend time with my wife and kids.
It takes just one puff for me in the evening, once the kids are safely in bed. It's not enough to feel stoned but that's not what my goal is here.
I use the smallest amount of cannabis I can get away with. For one, because it is incredibly expensive, and for two, because I have found from experience that a small amount is all I need to minimise the symptomology of my chronic illness.
I am not out to party the night away in a euphoric cloud of dope smoke, I am taking a medicine in very small measured doses to minimise my burden to society.
If anything, taxpayers should be happy I am self-medicating, as it significantly reduced my number of hospital visits, allowed me to gain weight, get healthy and return to work.
My diagnosis is incurable and chronic. I have a future to look forward to of a slow steady decline into liver and kidney failure brought on by the medications used to treat this type of arthritis.
Flare ups and non epileptic seizure events are a certainty, the pain, shame and embarrassment of being a burden to my family almost a guarantee. Every day I wake up is another miracle to be thankful for.
I've made a choice to risk breaking this drug law to minimise my burden to society, minimise the symptoms of my illness and minimise the side effects of the cytotoxic medication I'm on.
I also made the choice to do this quietly. Only a handful of people know I am doing this, I haven't told my specialist or my GP.
My biggest supporter is my wife, who sees first hand the huge difference a tiny amount of cannabis makes to my life.
She does not drink or smoke and is a fantastic mother to our children. Her efforts to make my life bearable are worthy of high honours.
She looked after me when I couldn't walk and was racked with seizure events; she stood by me when I had become a living skeleton in a wheelchair waiting for death; she helped me build my strength back up when the arthritis medication was prescribed - it allowed my joints to move again but my muscles had wasted away and I had to rebuild my life from the ground up.
So although I have stepped out of the shadows to share my story, I am stopping short of telling you who I am. I would lose my job and my livelihood, I would lose everything I have worked so hard to create from the nothing when I was on the disability benefit.
BENEFITS OF REGULATION
Hopefully you understand some of what I am saying - that cannabis is not just used by the rebellious teenager to party.
There are safe and responsible ways to use this drug. I believe mature adults can self-medicate with this drug without becoming rampant drug addicts smoking all the time.
In my opinion, people with those issues actually have deeper psychological problems fuelling their behaviour and that overuse is an easy way for them to escape their reality. Those heavy users need counselling in my opinion, for the issues they are running from.
Jail time is not going to address this or achieve anything but a large bill for the tax payer.
Regulation and control of supply through traditional pharmacological methods would significantly reduce the harm caused by this drug being controlled in the black market.
It would also allow access for people like myself, those with chronic health issues who do not want to be "stoned". We want to be normal and feel normal and reduce the suffering the illness, or the medication for the treatment of the illness, is causing.
Thank you for reading my story New Zealand.
Article originally posted on Stuff http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/your-story-your-views-your-words/12063001/Taxpayers-should-be-happy-I-use-medical-marijuana