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Canna-Patient Resource Connection offer medical marijuana patients support and advice 

click to enlarge Bridget Seritt treats her autoimmune diseases. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Bridget Seritt treats her autoimmune diseases.
Medical marijuana patients often have a hard time learning how to use cannabis to treat their conditions. They may be isolated and forced to experiment on their own. Or, seeking support from others with knowledge, they may turn to the internet for advice from patient support groups.

This is where the Canna-Patient Resource Connection in Colorado Springs can lend a helping hand. Co-founded by Bridget Seritt and Aisha Sawyer, the group builds the canna-patient community in a variety of ways, including support, outreach and education. They also advocate for good laws that meet patients’ needs.

Seritt, who has autoimmune diseases that she treats with cannabis, is extremely knowledgeable about the use of marijuana for medical treatment, including knowing which strains and terpenes are most effective for which diseases. Well-known in the community, Seritt is often invited to speak to groups, especially “condition-based support groups,” where all members suffer from the same illness, like multiple sclerosis or epilepsy, and she can give them specific advice about what treatments have provided relief for that particular condition. The groups she consults with are not necessarily for cannabis users, but many of their members are seeking information so that they can add it to their treatment regimen.

“Networks are how we get through this cannabis experiment together,” says Seritt. “We are connecting to treat ourselves and others.” Both she and Sawyer also do individual counseling with patients who contact them. They don’t charge for their service or sell any products.

Helping patients with a variety of needs is routine for Canna-Patient Resource Connection. Many adult MMJ patients are on fixed incomes and can’t afford all the medical supplies they need, so the women stock a supply cabinet with items like oxygen tubing and even expensive pieces of equipment.

If a patient is terminally ill, the canna-patient community will come together to provide meals and support, much like a church functions for its members. “Everyone is there if a patient is in need,” says Seritt. And that, she says, is unusual: “It’s a very isolated, reactive world we live in, and people are reluctant to burden others.” By connecting with Seritt’s group and other patients, members realize they aren’t alone.

Remarkably, the Canna-Patient Resource Connection is also able to mobilize these seriously ill folks for political action when needed. Members testify at the state Capitol with medical marijuana patients from across Colorado, and they also show up at City Council and county commissioner meetings to give their views on local laws.
click to enlarge Co-founder Aisha Sawyer. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Co-founder Aisha Sawyer.
“People from all over the state are affected by these laws, which can happen very quickly,” Seritt says. An example she gives is when the state drastically reduced the number of plants patients can legally grow. House Bill 1220, was pushed through the Legislature rapidly in 2017, she says.

Seritt knows how incredibly difficult it can be to get to these legislative hearings. She herself was quite ill and unable to walk two years ago, but to borrow an expression from her grandfather, “I’m a stubborn horse’s arse.” She and other patients somehow manage to be there when it matters because it is that important to speak out for cannabis treatments. “Even if they can’t go in person,” Seritt says, “they do send emails, videos and make phone calls.”

The medical marijuana patient community has been seriously and negatively impacted by grow limits like those passed by the state and in local communities like Colorado Springs, which had a grow limit of 12 plants before the state limit passed. Patients’ needs are different from recreational users’. They may require more plants to make their treatments and need specific strains that are effective for their conditions. While local MMJ dispensaries fill that need for most, some may not be able to find exactly what they need, or may not be able to afford it.
This is why Seritt and Sawyer spend time educating political candidates too. One candidate for governor, Republican Walker Stapleton, has stated in a 2017 Gazette editorial that he thinks MMJ is a problem for the state, allowing freeloaders to escape heavy taxes by simply claiming they’re in pain, and suggesting a fix to the “defect” is needed. “I don’t want him playing doctor with my health,” quips Seritt, who adds that political candidates are welcome to call her and Sawyer for advice on good marijuana policy.

“We point to some bills and how they affected us,” says Seritt. “We try to educate them to the viewpoints of patients vs. the marijuana industry.”

Seritt hopes efforts like these will produce more enlightened marijuana legislation, but, if not, there is always the canna-community for support. “Community [will] withstand whatever the state gives us,”says Seritt. “It helps us weather the storm.”

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