Smoking marijuana as one tool to cope with HIV infection


    Twenty-two states have made medical marijuana available to patients.  It’s legal in New Jersey and Delaware.  In Pennsylvania, the debate over allowing it continues. Lobbyist Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill, N.J. worked to get medical marijuana approved in New Jersey – and uses the substance to help him cope with HIV.

    “I remember looking at the receipt the first time I purchased legal marijuana in New Jersey, and it just felt so legitimate,” he said. “I changed the laws, man, it was a moment of professional and personal pride, a hard-fought victory, and we earned it.”

    Lassiter was diagnosed with HIV in 1994, when he was a teenager.

    “I say I’m the class of 1994, and a lot of people from the class of 1993 are dead, so I was right there at that cut-off.”

    He says the best way to live a long healthy life is to take the required medications every single day and to take them at the same time, and to have a very regimented lifestyle. “You can’t miss your meds, if your stomach is rebelling, and you can’t take your meds, that is very consequential.”

    He says marijuana emerged early on as one of many tools to help him cope with being HIV positive, since it calms his stomach, and increases his appetite.

    “When I need it therapeutically, you don’t get the same euphoria. So if my stomach is not feeling well, and I need it to take my meds, I just take a little puff of medicine, and usually I’m fine right away.”

    Lassiter says while he uses marijuana to be well, a lot of people need it to not be sick.

    “In New Jersey, one in three residents will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That’s a lot of people who could benefit from this science.”

    He says that cannabis science is still in its infancy. “There is not a lot of research about what kind of strains are most suitable for what kinds of diseases and symptoms, and that’s a pity.”

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