Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Keizer woman grows her ownto combat chronic pain

Grace Smith associated smoking pot with losers for the better part of her 36 years.
"I grew up in a scary Stepford town in Colorado and that was the way I was raised. One equaled the other," said Smith, a Keizer resident and medical marijuana cardholder.
Smith is not her real name. Her true identity is being withheld to protect her from possible backlash for a legal activity: growing marijuana for medical use in her own home. She agreed to tell her story in the aftermath of a recent drug bust in Keizer in which more than eight pounds of marijuana was taken from the home of a couple with medical marijuana cards.
Smith is the single mother of two boys and one of the few constants in her life is pain.
She was in a car crash at the age of 10 in 1978. The crash took her father's life and broke both sides of Smith's jaw and injured a knee as well.
"I wasn't wearing my seat belt, basically because I wasn't listening to my mother," she said.
More than 25 years later, Smith said the pain is nearly unbearable most days.
"I have a permanent migraine, which makes me grind my teeth to the point that they shatter, which makes me curl up into uncomfortable positions, which makes the pain that much worse. It's a real nasty cycle," she said.
Light and sound aggravate the condition. Her face is partially paralyzed. Her physical pain leads to mood swings that have kept even her closest family members on their toes.
Between the ages of 10 and 30, Smith was prescribed a laundry list of painkillers that could quell the pain, but often left her unable to care for her children or perform routine tasks that are taken for granted by others, which includes holding a regular job.
At its worst, she took in 21 mg of Percoset each day to take the edge off.
Smith said she was scared the first time she smoked marijuana to relieve her pain at age 30. She did so at the coaxing of friends who thought it might help her relax.
"I was really afraid, but I was desperate," she said.
What she found was that smoking marijuana helped her cope with the pain in a way she hadn't known before trying the drug.
She describes the effect as taking away the fear of looking at something in the mirror she didn't want to see.
"The pain was still there, but the marijuana helped me relax and continue to do the things that every normal person does," she said. "It takes away the fear of that first look in the mirror and allows me to get on with me life."
It also halved her daily intake of Percoset.
She began using marijuana illegally for medicinal purposes, but when medical marijuana use was approved by Oregon voters, she seized the opportunity to work within the established program.
"I'm one of those law-abiding citizens. I wasn't trying to break the law, but the pot was helping," she said.
What she encountered struck her as odd.
"No one in the area would sign the paperwork for a first-time card. I had to go to Portland," she said.
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