My name is Luke R. Shultz. I am a 51-year-old life-long resident of PA. In my early teens I developed degenerative disc disease in my lower back, which got progressively worse with age. Certain activities aggravated the condition and I had to give up sports and other interests in school and beyond as I entered young adulthood. I had used cannabis in high school and college but stopped when I got married and started a family. It was at that point that I requested something from my doctors to help control my back pain. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was self-medicating with cannabis and controlling my pain to a manageable level.
As my back problems continued to get worse, I was prescribed back braces, physical therapy, acupuncture, spinal injections and other procedures, external stimulators, and a host of other traditional and non-traditional therapies. I was also given more and stronger pharmaceutical medications. I was advised to delay spinal surgery for as long as possible.
I experienced several bouts of seriously debilitating flair-ups of muscle spasms and back pain during my early 30's, which caused me to miss months of work. When I was 38 I had a spinal fusion performed on one level of my lower spine. It failed to correct the problem or offer relief and I was left with various disabilities and chronic pain. I could no longer work and had to retire on disability. During and after two and a half years of physical therapy I tried essentially every additional treatment and therapy available to curb my pain or heal my back that I hadn't previously tried. Only pharmaceutical medications worked to lessen my pain and allow me to care for myself and pursue a few interests.
For the last 13 years I've been prescribed morphine, oxycodone, two anti-inflammatories (at max dosage), and a muscle relaxant. I also find relief using (over the counter) glucosamine sulfate and a medicated ointment that contains small amounts of the cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol). Understand that if I were denied my pain medications, or something/any thing to control the pain, I would resort to suicide. Please understand that I am not suicidal and do not wish to die. But the attenuated pain would be more than I could bear.
As much as I need the prescribed medications to survive, I detest taking them. They cause several undesirable side effects, they do damage to my body, and they could kill me. I would strongly desire the opportunity to use cannabis to control my pain and possibly heal my back. Among many other beneficial qualities, cannabis has been shown to posses anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and pain control properties. There is increasing scientific evidence suggesting that cannabis and cannabinoid based medications can enhance the analgesic activity of opioids. Anecdotal evidence is filled with accounts of patients greatly reducing or eliminating their opioid use. The essential oil of cannabis has also been anecdotally found to reduce scar tissue and regenerate damaged soft tissue, which could provide real healing in my back, where none has previously occurred.
As much as I'd like to, I currently do not use cannabis. My pain management doctor tests for illicit drug use in his patients, and if found, the patient is removed from his practice. I've found this to be common practice among pain management specialists. I understand their reasoning. If found to be prescribing narcotics to people who use illicit drug, a pain management doctor would at least risk losing his medical license, if not face criminal charges. The sad truth of my situation, and that of so many others who suffer in PA, is that we are kept from using a very beneficial plant or the medicine made from it because of unjust laws. Those who desire to use cannabis to simply relax or get high are doing so in spite of the law. Laws are supposed to prevent harm. Thec urrent laws on cannabis are causing harm and are otherwise ineffective. For myself and so many others who are needlessly suffering in PA, I ask that you do all you can to support and pass into law Senate Bill 1182.