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Medical marijuana patients fight stigma to find relief

Rich Greenberg was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and has suffered broken vertebra because of his condition.

His daily routine included popping powerful painkillers for some relief. At one point, Greenberg was taking more than 100 pills a month.

“I’ll be in chronic pain for most of my life,” said the 65-year-old resident of Mullica Hill. “I needed to get off the oxys (oxycodone).”

A few months ago, he turned to pot. Greenberg is among 10,800 patients statewide, including 4,735 who were new to the program last year, who are participating in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. That number is up from the 1,585 active patients reported in the New Jersey Department of Health’s first annual report on the program in 2013.For Greenberg and other patients at the Center for Alternative Medicine in Mount Laurel, the decision wasn’t made lightly.And marijuana wasn’t the first solution they turned to, knowing society can stereotype those who use the drug, they said. But these patients have said they have found benefits from the program.The patients are quick to point out that for them, pot is not about getting high. It is about helping to improve what is already a poor quality of life.Greenberg said his life was a perpetual cycle of uppers and downers. And he admits he was miserable most of the time.“It’s hell. You are constantly in pain. You’re constantly popping oxys. I didn’t want to be smoking pot. I did enough of that back in the 1950s and 1960s,” he joked.But about six months ago, in an effort to reduce his reliance on opioids to deal with his cancer and other issues, Greenberg decided to try marijuana. He uses it in lozenge and topical oil form.“I’m completely off the oxys now,” he said. “I sleep through the night. I can get up now. ... This program has made me a normal person.”Greenberg, who operates a financial services business in Mount Laurel, said that he was concerned about his reputation when he started using medicinal marijuana, but that the opioids made him “groggy” and left him “out of it” much of the time.

Read full article on Burlington County Times here

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