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‘The friendliest alternative to the heavy drugs’

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

Since she was a child, April Watkins has suffered from seizures, the result of a very serious medical condition. “It started with juvenile epilepsy and developed into the adult kind,” Watkins said.

 

She also has degenerative disc disease in her back, a condition that causes debilitating pain.

 

After years of taking “just about everything” to control the conditions, she said she’s finally found something that works. “Medical marijuana is making my life livable,” she said.

 

“You should see my pharmacy printouts of a few years ago,” Watkins said. To control her pain and seizures, she was put on a number of different drugs. “You name it, I took it,” she said.

 

That included at one point taking 180 milligrams of methadone each day.

 

“It’s a painful process, getting off of methadone,” she said. “Same with OxyContin and Percocet.”

 

She almost died due to an allergy to ibuprofen.

 

At the time, she was spending “about $6,000 a month,” at the pharmacy, with the costs picked up by taxpayers through Medicaid.

 

Now she uses medical cannabis. The only other medication she needs is “one beta blocker that costs $30 a month.”

 

She said she’s “absolutely” saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

 

The cannabis usually is free or she gets it at a greatly reduced price. “I usually work in someone else’s garden for my meds,” she said.

Shutting it down

To this point Watkins has secured her cannabis from Olympic Sinsemilla, which currently serves more than 200 peninsula patients. But as of July 22, the nonprofit is closing down, citing new language in the state’s medical marijuana law that says providers must wait 15 days when changing patients.

 

Watkins puts the blame on the Legislature, but mostly on the governor. “In 2007, Gregoire took credit for making it available. Why did she give it in order to yank it?” Watkins asked.

 

“I feel I have the right to access this medicine,” she said.

 

Watkins said prior to the opening of Olympic Sinsemilla, “I used to go to Seattle. I’m really disappointed that just when I had my medicine accessible, it’s been taken away. I feel like I’ve been drop-kicked,” she said.

 

Watkins said where she will turn now for cannabis is “a good question. I don’t know. I’m not thrilled about being thrown into the black market. The stuff on the street has mold, chemicals ...”

 

Watkins said, “That will deter a lot of people who could benefit” from using cannabis.

 

She said that growing her own is a possibility, but said, “The cost of growing your own is huge — and you have to know so much. Not everybody can do it.”

 

She said Gregoire likely was responding to the public perception of cannabis when she failed to veto the offending passage. “Some say it’s a gateway drug. It might be the reverse,” Watkins said, pointing to recent research that has shown cannabis may be useful in reducing the impact of drug withdrawal.

 

But mostly, she said, medical cannabis works.

 

After years of living in Port Angeles as a virtual invalid, Watkins said she’s now attending classes at Peninsula College. “I’m also volunteering. I’m giving a part-time job a try.”

 

“The pain doesn’t necessarily go away entirely like it does with heavy narcotics,” she said. “But you don’t go away entirely either.”

 

Regarding cannabis, she said, “People need to grow up.”

 

Cannabis is “the friendliest alternative to the heavy drugs,” Watkins said.

 

 

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