Amber Linkous, 27 years old, was diagnosed with MS at the age of 22. Amber suffers from intractable nerve pain throughout her body. “When it’s bad it feels like someone is poking a hot soldering iron in me. When that happens I can’t eat or sleep or even think,” she explains. The pain is especially excruciating during the cold winter months. Because of her symptoms, she unable to work and is on 100% disability.
Amber has tried a number of different prescription pain medications and currently uses hydrocodone, a narcotic. None of these drugs have worked very well to control her pain. She also has frequent muscle spasms which are very painful, and muscle relaxants provide very little relief. Because of pain in her right hip, she walks with a limp. All of these symptoms — the intractable pain, the muscle spasms, and the limp — disappear when Amber smokes marijuana. For her, medical marijuana is, as she puts it, “a total game changer.” Smoking a small amount of marijuana gives her instant relief without the side effects she experiences with the strong prescription medications. The pain subsides, the spasms go away, and she is able to walk normally.
Although Amber has lived in Jamestown since she was a small child, she will have to leave the state if the Compassionate Care Act is not passed in 2014. She will move to a state where medical marijuana is already legal. It’s illegality in New York has made it very difficult for her to obtain medical marijuana, both because of fear of arrest, and because the illicit market costs are too high for her to afford on her fixed disability income.