45 years as a medical cannabis patient Oct. 3

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 marks the 45th “cannaversary” of the first time I smoked cannabis before a visit to my ophthalmologist for a glaucoma checkup and discovered cannabis had the potential to save my sight from a lifetime of glaucoma. This is also the 200th article I’ve posted on Cannabadger since we launched March 20, 2015. Cannabadger is also approaching its 2 millionth visit per Google Analytics.

October 3, 1972, also a Tuesday, was a pleasant early fall day. The weather history says the high for the day was 63 with southerly winds blowing at 12mph. The day was likely sunny with no precipitation reported. I was a 17-year old high school senior attending a Catholic high school in Waukesha. I was born with glaucoma and the disease had ravaged my sight starting way back while I was still in single digits. My eyes constantly hurt and the drops used to treat it stung. Then as now, I was very sensitive to bright light. You can see the agony in some of my childhood photos where I was facing the sun. Standard medications never fully controlled the elevated intraocular pressures, and surgery was too risky.

I was very near-sighted and a voracious reader. I had seen news articles about UCLA researchers Drs. Robert Hepler and Thomas Ungerleider work at UCLA on marijuana and glaucoma in the local daily newspaper.

So, on Tuesday, October 3, 1972, I decided to begin my own research, my personal n=1 study. I got out of school early for the appointment. Before friends dropped me off at home where my mother would drive me the 20 plus miles into downtown Milwaukee where my eye doctor had his office, we smoked some nice ganja.

Getting to the office took nearly an hour and there was the usual wait before being ushered back to be examined, so it was at least an hour and a half before my ophthalmologist checked my pressures at 3:45pm.

The doctor, who had been treating me since I was very young, was thrilled to find my pressures, usually very elevated, were in normal range in both eyes. I did not volunteer the reason, it just did not seem like it would be a good idea at the time. But I knew I had a potent tool that could save my eyesight in cannabis. I’d been smoking pot a good year or so, but this was the first time it officially became medical.

Wisconsin passed the Therapeutic Cannabis Research Act in 1982 that included glaucoma, but without a means of supply. Today 29 states have some form of medical cannabis law with glaucoma included as a qualifying condition in most. But for Wisconsin patients in need, the wait continues.

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