Quarantined With No Medicine

I don’t know how you’re spending your quarantine, but I’ve spent the past few weeks wondering how to legally obtain marijuana.

In states where it’s legal, people are stocking up on weed like it’s toilet paper. But I live in Wisconsin, where it most certainly isn’t.

I began getting daily migraines in 1995. Until three years ago, I couldn’t even remember what it was like to not have a headache. To not be exhausted all the time. To feel normal.

For over two decades, I tried everything: pharmaceuticals, Botox, herbs, vitamins, acupuncture, chiropractors, CBD, you name it. Nothing helps.

About a decade ago, a frustrated doctor finally handed me a prescription for Percocets — and they worked. Percocets are an opioid. I used them very sparingly, about once a month at most. That left the other 29 days a month where my head still hurt.

In 2017, on a trip to Colorado, I bought some edibles on a whim. Smoking pot does nothing besides give me a sore throat, but that chocolate bar actually got rid of my headache.

Back home in California, where I lived full time then, I got a card for medical marijuana. And for the first time in over two decades, I had a way to regularly get rid of headaches.

I’m a graduate student in a PhD program. After I got medical marijuana, I started doing better in school. It’s hard to write a dissertation while your head is throbbing.

Medical marijuana is not perfect. I can’t drive or go to work high, obviously. But if I’m choosing between spending hours in bed with a migraine or blissfully stoned without one, it’s not a difficult decision.

I found I have to measure my dose carefully so that I take enough to fix my headaches without increasing my tolerance. I like that legal weed is regulated and clearly packaged with the dosage information I need. I wouldn’t be able to measure the correct dosage if I bought it illegally and tried baking brownies myself.

In 2018, with the help of both cannabis and therapy, I began doing better. After 23 years, my daily migraines ended. Now I only get them in times of great stress.

That brings me to where I am now. Wisconsin. With a headache.

Wisconsin is one of a dwindling number of states where medical marijuana is not legal. I moved here from California last year for a job.

I’m aware that my problems are small compared to people who have lost their jobs, or lost their lives, or people who are risking their lives right now to save others.

That said, right now my “small” problem is that my head hurts everyday and it would be a crime to possess and use the one drug — besides dangerous opioids — that can fix it. I wonder, how many others in the states where medical marijuana is illegal are currently in the same boat?

Are there cancer patients dying needlessly painful deaths because their state government thinks they should “just say no”? If we lived in another state, we’d be able to just buy what we need.

I’ve spent the last three weeks looking at my choices: Drive to a state where I can purchase it legally, and then drive home with enough drugs to land me a felony charge? Purchase it illegally in Wisconsin? Grow it illegally in Wisconsin? Move to another state while I’m supposed to be quarantining?

Yesterday I took a Percocet. I’ve got a bottle of ten pills my doctor said better last me a year.

I truly don’t want to break the law. I just also don’t want my head to hurt. Why is the only drug that stops my headaches illegal?

Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.