^pBy RUSTY PRAY

Feeling Fit Correspondent

Karen Graves wanted to hear how medical marijuana might help her mother, Mary Fontaine, who has Parkinson’s disease.

So, she came with her mother to a Parkinson’s support group meeting sponsored by the Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s, which had brought in representatives of Trulieve, a medical marijuana dispensary in Florida.

“I just want to hear about what types of avenues she’s exploring so that I’m fully aware of what she’s doing, what might help, and what might be there for me in the future,” said Graves, who was visiting her mother, a Venice resident, from Washington, D.C.

She said that her mother had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s about five years ago, and that the disease had been progressing slowly.

“She’s well-managed,” Graves said. “I try to keep up. I’m happy just to come and see. I’d like to know more about it, too. If it helps her, I think it would be great.”

Graves and her mother joined nine other people as Randy Jelks and Skyler Hunt of Trulieve presented Medical Cannabis 101 with Trulieve.

“We like to bring in different speakers to provide education,” Chelsea Dooley, care adviser for Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s, said before the 90-mnute session.

Parkinson’s is a chronic, progressive movement disorder for which there is no known cause or cure. More than a million people in the United States suffer from it.

There are different stages in the progression, but it generally causes tremors of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face, slowness of movement, stiffness in the limbs and impaired balance and coordination.

While the progression can’t be stopped, it can be slowed. Medication is one way. It is believed medical marijuana can help relieve some symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.

“It can help with tremors, relaxation,” Hunt said. “There’s a variety of different things. A lot of patients are stressed because they’re tight. They can’t relax at night. They can use our product to help get a full night’s sleep.”

Florida is one of 33 states and Washington, D.C., where medical marijuana is legal.

“There’s a lack of education out there,” Hunt continued. “People are finding out things by word of mouth. That’s why we’re out there trying to educate the community through nonprofits that are connected to medical cannabis — cancer organizations, Parkinson’s organizations, epilepsy organizations.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation website, www.parkinson.org, the effects of medical marijuana for movement disorders are not completely understood. Additional research is needed to determine how medical marijuana should be administered and how long-term use can affect symptoms.

Robyn Faucy-Washington, chief executive officer of the Neuro Challenge Foundation, said bringing in speakers to the support group was part of the foundation’s ongoing effort to educate those with Parkinson’s.

“Neuro Challenge Foundation is committed to providing the Parkinson’s community with information about medications and treatment options that can help them to live well,” Dooley said. “As with any treatment or medication, people should consult with their physicians before making any changes or trying something new.”

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