Marty Gotoh began using medical marijuana (MMJ) shortly after it became available in Ohio to treat his chronic pain. He answered some questions from MedicateOH about why he uses MMJ to help manage his condition.

MedicateOH: How long have you had this condition, and how did you treat it before?

It’s been about four years. In the beginning, I didn’t know what it was. I [thought I] just had sciatic nerve pain. The pain is constantly changing. Depending on the pain, I would be trying different things. When I first went to the doctor, they gave me percocet. I went through it in a couple of weeks. [After that] I was using mostly ibuprofen and acetaminophen. I also got an oral steroid and steroid shots in my back. Sometimes it would help, and sometimes it wouldn’t.

How has MMJ been helpful in addressing your symptoms?

I’ve never taken a pain killer that killed pain… [With stronger medications] the pain is still there, it just makes you care less about it… Marijuana can give me that, I can get messed up without it killing my stomach, and it lets me sleep. If I take percocet or opioids, I couldn’t sleep. [MMJ] became my new “painkiller.” That being said, it’s not something I could take and go to work or drive. It’s the same with percocet too.

What was the process to find the right strain and dosing for your symptoms?

Having the medicinal, it’s targeted, it’s actually fairly scientific… When you go to the dispensary, you talk to the person and they know a lot about what they are selling. There’s some experimentation involved (to find the right combination) and it’s expensive. I wanted to be numbed and be able to sleep. So they said (I needed) high THC… Terpenes are more conducive to pain relief.

How did this differ from finding appropriate treatment in the past?

When you’re experimenting with (finding the right combination of) pills, each one can affect you differently. With marijuana, the side effects are always going to be the same… it’s not like you’re going to get a side effect that no one’s ever heard of.

Do you still use other medication to treat your symptoms?

No other prescriptions, just Advil. Almost every week the pain is changing, sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t… When it works, it seems to work better.

Are there any downsides to using MMJ as a treatment for chronic pain?

One of the biggest cons is obviously the stigma attached to marijuana in general. As it currently is, this pain treatment is basically something you have to administer at home in private. You can’t really use it publicly because folks don’t yet realize it’s also a medicine.

What do you like about MMJ?

It’s been super helpful. I’m not worried about long term side-effects. The other thing for me is that it’s natural.

Do you have any comments on the process of obtaining MMJ in Ohio, as a patient?

I thought it was amazingly easy. There’s these centers now, they have doctors, it’s very easy to come in. I went to the Ohio Green team. I went in, I met a doctor, explained (my symptoms) to him. He explained the pros and cons. I would say the biggest bottleneck to the process is (the wait time at) dispensaries.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.