- Michael E. Burdick
When I was diagnosed with scoliosis at 14, I figured the required corrective surgery would be the end of my pain. My cervical (top) and thoracic (middle) spine had curved a dramatic 70 degrees, forcing my rib cage to infringe on my lungs and other organs. My lumbar (lower) spine was, in less technical terms, totally fucked.
Luckily, one of the top orthopedic surgeons in Michigan was able to perform a procedure which involved lifting my spine out of my body and fusing it to some titanium rods with what looks like a hodgepodge of nuts and screws from the hardware store — and for the love of god do not YouTube this procedure, you will vomit. My recovery was long and was made longer by my refusal of the forever refillable Vicodin that had been prescribed to me. I relied only on the occasional over-the-counter pain reliever. I assumed, over time, it would only get easier.
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Program was two years old by the time I became a patient in 2010. I was 21, making my operation nearly seven years old and my pain levels hovering around a hard eight. I had smoked weed before and had treated it like a party favor. In fact, I was notably pretty stoned when I had my first kiss at 16, finessing the joint between my rubber band-bound braces. A few years later, I learned that marijuana could help with my pain, nerve damage, daily migraines, and inflexibility. As it turns out, I was among the earliest batch of patients to take advantage of the program.
Almost immediately, I found my go-to dispensary, and my pain was quickly becoming something I could manage thanks to my new friends indica and sativa. Two months into having my card I was offered a job at that very dispensary, and would eventually manage that space years later.
During that time, I saw anywhere from 10 to 50 patients a day, most of whom I had made deep connections with. From making small talk and swapping histories of pain to cradling a frustrated multiple sclerosis sufferer, talking schizophrenic patients off the ledge, and getting to know the names of children, grandchildren, and pets of almost all of our regulars, working the desk meant something more than checking valid IDs and paperwork. It wasn't uncommon for patients to suggest that we were doing "God's work."
It should go without saying that, yes, the other half of our patient base would qualify as your typical stoners. And sure, this job taught me how to smoke even the most seasoned toker under the table. But the truth is, for those four years I worked in fear: fear of being raided by overzealous law enforcement, and fear that people, including myself, may not have access to their medicine. Mostly, however, it was really fucking fun.
In the 10 years since Michigan's program launched, little has changed in terms of legality. But new trails are being blazed as far as new products and experiences being made available to patients, and the many ganjapreneurs are committed to seeing the movement through.
So when discussion of the Metro Times 4/20 issue rolled around, we decided to take a less Cheech & Chong approach to marijuana. Instead, I would embark on what I had glamorously began to refer to as my "Week of Weed Wellness." Through exploration of cannabis art therapy, weed yoga, a slew of self-care products, and a CBD oil massage, I was ready to be pampered and to get (and stay) as high as humanly possible.
This was, I thought, a dream assignment. However, I would wind up completing this mission during the same week the state of Michigan ordered more than 150 medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit to close due to a lapse in a new regulatory framework that requires all dispensaries to apply for approval.
These bumpy machinations are nothing new to the medical marijuana community in Michigan. But despite an unreliable legal framework, patients and entrepreneurs are rising above the bullshit.
Some names have been changed. All services require a valid medical marijuana card.