Chronic pain patients talk medical marijuana as alternative to opiates

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB)- Director of the Dent Cannabis Clinic, Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, called the latest expansion of New York’s medical marijuana program “a game changer.”

He told News 4 the introduction of chronic pain as the eleventh approved indication for treatment has the potential to bring New York’s current patient population of 10,730 up to nearly 200,000.

“The flood gates are going to open for a huge population of New Yorkers. And we expect the numbers we have presently, which are significant, to increase by 6 to 7-fold,” Dr. Mechtler said.

A binder sits in his office filled with hundreds of prospective patients, many of them suffering from chronic pain. He said he’s hopeful that binder will get smaller and smaller, as more of them get certified.

Friday, staff at Dent met to discuss how they’re going to accommodate the influx of new patients. Dr. Mechtler believes in “open access,” meaning patients shouldn’t have to wait for months before being treated.

For now, staff is preparing to extend weekend hours and expand parking to meet the growing demand of medical marijuana patients.

Dr. Mechtler feels giving pain patients an alternative to opiates could bring down overdose rates, and improve people’s quality of life.

It already has for one of his patients, Wendy Hart.

“I was on hydrocodone, 10mg 325, which is a pretty high dose. And I was taking about 4-5 of those a day. And I’m now down to about 1 1/2 a day,” she said.

Hart is a cancer survivor, who uses medical marijuana in small doses through a vaporizer for chronic pain and intestinal issues. She’s been a patient since February.

Eileen Wietchy is hoping to get certified; she’s been working on it for the past two months. This latest expansion is giving her hope.

Wietchy has been suffering from chronic pain for the past few years following a car accident.

“Trying to get through the hurdles right now and getting into a neurologist, just so that they can clear this so that I can sit there and be an MMJ patient,” Wietchy told News 4.

Like Hart, she wants an alternative to prescription pills.

As with every new amendment, this will be highly regulated, and clinics who want to accommodate an influx of new patients will need to prepare.

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