Radio reporter describes with personal detail what it’s like to go to another state to buy legal cannabis for a medical condition

What is it like for Kentuckians to buy cannabis in another state under Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order? WUKY‘s Karyn Czar, who has one of the 21 medical conditions specified in the governor’s order, a side effect of chemotherapy, got legal cannabis in Illinois, the only adjoining state where Kentuckians can buy it.

Czar was diagnosed in August with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. “I began rounds of chemotherapy that left me exhausted, suffering from joint pain and tremors, and with a condition called neuropathy that causes my hands and feet to go numb,” she reports. “I was sidelined from two things that I love, reporting in the field and performing on stage with local theater companies.”

In the first report of a three-part series, Czar says she went to Illinois not just to find relief, but to “help any of you who, like me, have a condition that might be helped with medical cannabis. This first hurdle for me was getting over the stigma.” Here’s part of the conversation she had at the dispensary in Mount Vernon, Ill., with an employee identified only as Valerie:

Czar: “I couldn’t sleep last night. I feel like I’m doing something that I shouldn’t be doing.”
Valerie: “Well, I felt like that at first, but then you have to recognize that it is legal in the state of Illinois. It is a benefit for people who do have cancer and other things wrong with them, and we’re just going to follow the law and go with that.”
Czar: “So, like where I’m losing the feeling somewhat in my hands and feet. So that the tremors and then sleep are my main things.”
Valerie: “Hearing that information I would suggest an indica. Then I would stick with a plain indica. I wouldn’t add anything to it until you know what you were looking for. To be able to help the symptoms.”

“Valerie takes me to a kiosk and pulls up a pie chart that lists dozens of medical conditions and symptoms,” Czar reports. “She matches mine with the products she believes could offer relief.”

Czar: “I’m just going to give you carte blanche to pick what you think I should try first.”
Valerie: “So you said that gummy, right? You’re interested in the gummy?
Czar: “Yes.”
Valerie: “So I would go back with that one and then the indica because of the symptoms. And then I kind of looked at my little wheel here, so I’m going to go with an indica so I can actually narrow myself down on the kiosk to what I need. I would stick with just a basic one.”
Czar: “Okay.”
Valerie: “Now, there’s two different kinds here. I have one that’s a live resin. Live resin is a live plant that has been crushed and frozen and everything extracted out of that, stems and all, that is then made into the gummy. Then I have your regular ones. The regular I call are just cured plants. They’ve taken that and fused it and made a regular gummy out of it.”

“What was most surprising was the array of products,” Czar says. “Smokeable cannabis I expected. I also knew about edibles, but there were also drinks, snacks, lozenges, and topical creams. I got 10 gummies and a lotion. As I got ready to make my purchase, what I didn’t expect was to be overcome with guilt. The stigma returned. My voice choked. . . . The tears were twofold. Of course, medical marijuana is still illegal here in Kentucky, and I would be transporting it across state lines. But I was also overwhelmed with the thought that this could help me.

“When we got back to the car, I took a fourth of the gummy, which was recommended and legal for me to do in Illinois, and used some of the topical cream on my left leg, which at this point had become completely numb up to my knee, and I was having to use a cane. About an hour later, when we stopped at a gas station, I got out of the car and the numbness had gone away. Now, it did not cure the neuropathy. However, it was back to a level to where I was able to tell when my foot was completely on the ground and I didn’t need to use the cane.”

Czar gives the legal basics: “Beshear’s executive order offers pardons for having and using the drug if you meet certain criteria. You have to have an approved medical condition such as cancer, MS or PTSD, and have a signed note from a medical professional to prove it. Marijuana products must be purchased in a state that allows non-residents to buy it. And keep the receipt. Finally, you can’t possess more than 8 ounces.” More than that is a felony in Kentucky.

“There are caveats,” Czar cautions. “Physicians can’t give you advice on treatment or write a prescription. So I had to rely on trial and error until I figured out which doses and products work for me. You will have a positive result if you’re asked to take a drug test. In my case, I might need a bone-marrow transplant, so I have to have a negative test if that moves forward.”

She concludes, “Kentucky lawmakers are taking up medical marijuana again in the 2023 legislative session, but legalization efforts still face an uphill battle in the Republican-led Senate.”

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