Man denied psychiatric care for legally smoking marijuana

Associate Chris Hewitt holds up 7 gram bags of marijuana buds being prepared for sale at Nature Scripts medical marijuana dispensary in Murphy, Ore., Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The dispensary is one of many across the state preparing for the first day of retail legal sales starting Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)

PLAINVILLE, Conn. (WTNH) — A Plainville man says he’s being discriminated against for legally smoking pot.

Michael Purcell uses marijuana as medication, just like thousands of other Connecticut residents. His severe arthritis led him to try painkillers and other medication, but nothing has worked quite as well for him as pot.

Purcell is one of the more than 5,000 Connecticut residents using the once illegal drug as a legal medication. Until recently, Purcell was also seeing a counselor for depression at a state funded non-profit called United Services. When he tried to setup an appointment a few weeks ago, he was told that prescription pot would keep him from coming back.

“They don’t recognize the arthritis as a condition,” Pucrell said.

United Services Medical Director Jay Patel says his clinic and others are seeing an increase in medical marijuana patients; and with them, challenges.

“It becomes very difficult for us to identify which ingredient is working on which particular condition,” said Patel.

When you mix chemicals found in marijuana called cannaboids with psychiatric drugs, Patel says the effects aren’t fully known.

“We have been traditionally treating cannabis use disorders as a problem,” Patel said. “Now with this new wrinkle in the treatment and diagnosis, it is a real challenge for the psychiatry profession.”

So what happened with this case?

United Services wouldn’t talk patient specifics, but they’re looking at the state to give direction on which medical conditions are approved for medical marijuana. Sometimes a condition is approved, and the clinic doesn’t know it.

“Many times what happens is that a given condition may not have been recognized by our clinical staff in the front line,” Patel commented.

According to Patel, that is often true for arthritis patients; which means Purcell has to look elsewhere for clinical treatment. That’s something he wasn’t planning on, and something he calls discrimination.

When asked how it felt about it, Purcell responded, “Disgust… because I didn’t think it would ever happen to me, and it did.”

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