He sold his blood plasma to afford medical marijuana. Tell us your story.

The story was originally published in POLITICO with support from the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism's 2022 National Fellowship

By Natalie Fertig and Erin Smith

Darrell Pelsrey noticed his tremors getting worse for a decade before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The shaking got so bad for Pelsrey, who is now 43, that workers followed him through grocery stores, and police stopped him eight times, asking whether he was under the influence of drugs. He found it easier to just stay home.

Prescription drugs didn’t seem to help, made him feel sick and lowered his appetite, so Pelsrey decided to try medical marijuana, which became legal in his home state of Ohio in 2016.

“It slowed me completely down,” said Pelsrey. “For the first time [in three years] I was able to carry a drink up my stairs to the bedroom.”

But Pelsrey can’t always afford medical marijuana, and said he has sold blood plasma to pay for what he needs. Pelsrey says it costs him about $600 per month for edibles, tincture and up to 28 grams of smokable flower.

While Medicaid covers Pelsrey’s opioids and other prescription pain meds, it won’t pay for marijuana — which is illegal in the eyes of the federal government. But polls show most people support legalizing marijuana for medical use, and 38 states have medical marijuana programs.

In October, the Biden administration announced a review of all marijuana research to decide whether federal law should be changed. At the same time, Congress is considering new laws that would allow more marijuana research and no longer make it a federal crime to have marijuana. But it isn’t clear if Democrats — who don’t all support legalization — will be able to pass any new laws on marijuana before the end of the year.

Those decisions could impact Pelsrey and the more than 5 million medical marijuana card holders across the country using the drug to treat everything from severe seizure disorders to chronic pain and PTSD.

That’s why POLITICO is launching a nationwide project exploring how easy or difficult it is for people to access marijuana for medical treatment. The information gathered with this survey will be used in a project funded by the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2022 National Fellowship.

If you or someone close to you uses medical marijuana, we want to hear from you. Please fill out or share our brief survey below or at this link.

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