When Connie Norgart smokes marijuana, she doesn’t feel the chronic pain of her post-polio syndrome.

“It’s not right we have a drug with hardly any side effects that’s not given to people to help them,” the 60-year-old Urbandale woman said.

She pays $75 for a fourth of a bag of “medical grade” on the black market.

Stricken with polio as a child, Norgart was diagnosed in 1989 with post-polio syndrome. Symptoms include progressive muscle and joint weakness and pain, fatigue even with minimal activity, muscle atrophy, breathing and swallowing problems, sleep apnea and low tolerance of cold temperatures.

Norgart had to quit her nursing career two years ago from what she called the “terrible cycle of chronic pain” that also has brought on bouts of depression.

Doctors have put her on narcotic medications to treat the pain. She used methadone — a Schedule II controlled substance — for 15 years. It may control the pain for four to five hours, but she felt tired all the time. She says she was hospitalized twice because pain pills were causing ulcers in her stomach.

She started smoking marijuana to wean herself off the meds.

“When you see people hurting and crying and dying and know life can be better for them, how can you watch that?” she asked. “It just really bothers you after a while, that something like cannabis can be so helpful to so many people. I know how it helps me.”