Patient Testimonials on the Efficacy of Medical Cannabis
– Documented by the Cannabis Patient Network
Cannabis Patient Network was founded with a solitary mission that persists to this day – giving a voice to the chronically and terminally ill. The vast majority of our country’s chronically ill don’t know that cannabis is real medicine and that this God given plant could give them a better quality of life. It’s such a terrible, terrible shame that anyone should have to live out their life in needless pain and suffering. What’s more, as we have witnessed, the halt and even reversal of autoimmune disease can be possible, but not for those who are denied the knowledge of this often life-saving medicine. If only it makes one’s life more tolerable, why does our government persist in its deception?
The truth is in the telling. We, the chronically and terminally ill are real people. We are a portion of the middle class that affects 100% of America, because every family in America has at least one member who is chronically ill. You can be certain of one thing, chronic illness comes to us all at some point in our lives.
Twelve Testimonies presented to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, November, 2009
Cathy Jordan of Florida – Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS )
I used to be a hairdresser from New Castle, DE, but now I’m a medical marijuana patient & activist, living near Tampa, FL.
I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) in 1986 (I was 36), was told by my doctor not to smoke anything, standard advice for a new ALS patient, suffered typical deterioration of my body over the next two years and prepared for my death – ALS is a terminal illness and I probably had only another year or two.
Then, in 1989, standing on a beach in Sarasota, FL, I was passed a “joint” and said “Why not?” After just a few puffs, I had a wonderful feeling – that my disease had stopped! I’ve been smoking ever since – for twenty-one years now, and I think I’m aging quite well, thank you.
Cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana) works for me by drying up my saliva (ALS patients often drown in their own fluids), helping me cough and stimulating my lungs through its bronchodilation action.
Science now shows that Cannabis is actually a neuroprotectant, treating auto-immune conditions like ALS and MS by suppressing “excito-toxicity” and the over-production of glutamate. Also, Cannabis has long been known to have an anti-inflammatory effect and inflammation is now believed to play an important role in ALS.
Brenda L. of Ohio: Breast Cancer
“Eight years ago, Brenda was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was in stage I when they found it. She underwent the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy.
A lumpectomy is where just the tumor is removed as well as the normal breast tissue that closely surrounds the tumor. Sentinel node refers to the first lymph node(s) that drains from the breast tumor area (found by injecting a radioactive dye).
“They shoot radiation into your breast and they follow it up to the nodes to make sure that you don’t have cancer in your lymph nodes. And I did not, so all I had to have was radiation…and hormone therapy. Because my cancer was fed by the estrogen.”
Tamoxifen is used to treat certain types of breast cancer that require estrogen to grow. It’s often used following surgery and radiation. (Drugs.com can provide more information on this line of treatment.)
“That’s the drug from Hell, too…the hot flashes were like a hundred times worse. I mean you just break out into a sweat all over. For no reason. I mean 25, 30 times a day. And the radiation…it was..I don’t know…it was a weakening. It didn’t hurt. It was completely painless. You wonder, what are they shooting through your body? But you…can’t feel it. But you can afterwards.”
Brenda still has scars from the over-spray of the radiation, now, eight years later. It burned her skin. Brenda was lucky that she’s dark skinned. After the treatment, “…they were surprised because they said, most of the time, the skin peels away. But I’m part Indian. They said I did very well.”
One of her breasts is bigger than the other because of the effects of the radiation.
“After the radiation, it left you very drained. And, so nauseous, you didn’t even want to think about food.”
Brenda had heard that cannabis was good for treating the nausea following cancer therapy. So she tried it. “And I could eat my dinner.”
Maintaining a consistent weight was important. The wasting that follows this kind of treatment can kill just as easily as the cancer it’s self.
Brenda underwent thirty-five days of radiation. “Boom, boom, boom.” That’s the deliberate way the treatments went. Then, another type of radiation. “They gave me two different kinds.”
“If I hadn’t had the cannabis to get through the nauseousness, I would have lost weight and, I don’t know, who knows what would have happened.”
“Cannabis gives me a lift. It doesn’t lay me back or anything. I want to do things, and it gave me energy that I didn’t have at that time. I could eat. That was the important thing.”
Since she smoked her cannabis, she did have some respiratory irritation, but that was minimal and could have been remedied if she would have known about vaporizers.
Brenda also suffers from arthritis in her knee and in her hip. In addition, she has chronic pain in her feet and has had surgery in both of them.
“…I get around real well. Fifty-seven and I still mow the grass. I usually smoke cannabis before I do. It kind of lessens the pain and keeps me going.”
The anti-inflammatory benefit of cannabis helps her with her arthritic pain. “It takes your mind away; away from your pain.”
Brenda sums up her feelings about cannabis by saying, “They should let people grow their own medicine if they want to. And it would be so easy. So easy for somebody. Plant a little seed. Get some medicine.”
Beth Wilkinson of Kansas: Epilepsy
Beth is originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That’s where she grew up. She got her degree from the University of Northern Iowa. She has a degree in Art Education.
Currently Beth lives in Lawrence, Kansas. It’s turned out to be a really nice place for her and her family to live.
In 1986, Beth was riding horses with a friend. Her horse fell on her and she suffered a TBI, (traumatic brain injury), which landed her in a coma for over a week.
When she came out of the coma, she had to learn everything all over again. Her son was two years old then. “ …so, we basically grew up together.”
She didn’t have any further complications from her injury for years. She finished up her degree and she later moved to Minnesota. But it was there that she began experiencing seizures and black outs.
So she had to start seeing a Neurologist. She was put on Dilantin and stayed on it for years.
After moving back to Cedar Rapids, she started having the seizures once, maybe twice a year. Following her move to Kansas in ’98, she started having them two or three times a month. Those seizures were called Grand Mal’s, or, their current term, Tonic-Clonic seizures.
“You end up biting your tongue quite a bit, and, it’s real difficult to speak for a long time afterward…and hard to think…”
They did a VNS (Vegus nerve stimulation) implant on Beth. Wikipedia describes this apparatus as such: A VNS implant is a stimulator that sends electric impulses to the left Vagus nerve in the neck via a lead wire implanted under the skin. The device consists of a titanium-encased generator about the size of a pocket watch with a lithium battery to fuel the generator, a lead wire system with electrodes, and an anchor tether to secure leads to the Vagus nerve.
“It gives electrical shocks to your nervous system, because that’s what basically epilepsy turns into is a nerve disorder…that little motor is like a pacemaker. It triggers off every 30 seconds. So if you hear my voice change, that’s probably when that little motor is going off.” She chuckles.
Truth be known, several times during the interview I noticed her speech briefly pause and her eyelids flutter.
“You carry a little magnet with you and if you’re feeling something coming on, like a seizure, you’ll stick that into your system up here on your shoulder.” Beth touches her left shoulder.
“I don’t always know when it’s happening, because it’s been recently, within the last month when I had one at the library. And, um, you know, I was out more than an hour. And ended up in the emergency room. So…it’s really awful. You don’t really know what’s going on when that happens.”
They’ve tried a lot of medications on Beth. Moving her from drug to drug. “Dozens…dozens.”
One of the side effects is that she now weighs forty to fifty pounds more because of the pharmaceuticals. The drugs have made her lethargic and she can’t think as clearly. “When you’re on all the medicine that they (the doctors) prescribe you just can’t be as active.”
Finally, she got to the point where she didn’t want to take just another drug for her migraines, so she tried cannabis. She had used cannabis recreationally when she was younger.
“That was the most functional, practical thing for me to do, because it didn’t conflict with all the medicines I was on.”
Beth’s doctor approves of her using cannabis to offset her symptoms. So much so that she is willing to write a letter stating so.
Beth also believes that cannabis is helping her seizures. “…it feels like the sides of my brain are relaxing.”
She believes that if cannabis would have been available to her earlier on, things might have been different. “I might still be driving, because that’s one of my restrictions. I wouldn’t have wrecked all my cars.” She chuckles, then looks down, “I hate that.”
Beth’s illness has dramatically disrupted her life. Speaking seriously, “It’s embarrassing. I mean embarrassing when you end up in the emergency room to the same nurse and doctor that you’ve seen numerous times.”
None of the doctors in Lawrence will see Beth because of all her seizures. That’s a hardship, because now she must travel out of town to see a doctor.
She’s also fearful about what the prescription drugs are doing to her body. “And here I have got this little motor going off in me all the time so I’ve got to deal with that too.”
So Beth waits, for a day when her suffering will end, or at least, ease – A time when her safest, most effective medicine will be legally and openly available to her. A time when she will no longer have to hide the fact that she uses cannabis or depend on artificial devises to stem off the traumatic effects of her seizures.
Heather DeMian of Columbia, Missouri: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Heather is thirty-six years old and confined to a wheelchair. Heather was born with a rare genetic condition called Vascular Type Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
It’s a defect in her type three collagen that weakens the walls of her blood vessels, organs, and esophagus. “Everything is very weak.”
It makes her joints dislocate very easily. “When you see a new doctor and they see that you have Ehlers-Danlos, they immediately ask ‘what tricks can you do?’ ” A cynical smile comes over Heather’s face.
But condition is no laughing matter. It causes her a lot of pain and gastro-intestinal problems, which are further aggravated by the pain meds that are prescribed to her.
Heather takes Zofran, an anti-nausea medication. “Zofran suppresses the gag reflex maybe half the time.” Her Medicaid pays roughly $1200 per month for her to have this drug.
She also takes Marinol, a pharmaceutical synthetic of the cannabinoid THC that is found in cannabis. Heather’s Marinol costs Medicaid roughly $1500 per month.
Together, these prescriptions total $2700 per month or $32400 per year, just to try to suppress Heather’s urge to vomit. Unfortunately, they rarely do. She has to carry a plastic container everywhere she goes for when the urge to vomit comes upon her. Obviously, she doesn’t get to go out very much.
Heather describes her cannabis use as, “an instant soothing that you can’t get from any drug.”
When she was in the hospital two years ago, the nurses and doctors tried to give her pills and food, but she couldn’t keep anything down. She spent hours hovering over her plastic receptacle. Her doctors were perplexed since nothing in their pharmacopoeia was working.
Then Heather suggest, “If you’d let my fiancée bring something from home (cannabis), I could go outside for a cigarette break – this’ll go away.” Frustrated, the physicians complied. Heather went to the smoking area of the hospital, took four to six puffs from a cannabis cigarette, she returned to her room in good spirits, ate her lunch, and took her pills without any problem.
Heather’s physicians and nurses were amazed. They wrote on her chart that, from then on, whenever she needed it, she should be allowed to go outside for a “smoke break”.
“It was the only way that they could get me to eat my pills.”
Unfortunately, Heather has great difficulty getting the quantity and quality of cannabis that she so desperately needs. In Columbia, Missouri, though there is some protection for her as a patient to possess cannabis, there is no provision for obtaining it.
“Relying on the black market, you tend to get low quality…mold and other things in it that you don’t want in your medicine; that can make you just as sick. We really need to be able to grow our own or have caregivers grow them; dispensaries where we know it’s quality.”
Holding up her prescriptions, “A few hundred dollars worth of cannabis could replace $2700 worth of, you know, synthetic crap that doesn’t work very well.”
“Being chronically ill is not fun. Anything that can make it less painful, and less dangerous…every time I throw up, I risk rupturing my esophagus. It’s a dangerous thing. I could very easily kill myself throwing up…”
“I’m not a bulimic. This is not something I can control. I’m not inducing it. A lot of times, they (doctors) don’t seem to care; when the drugs that they give me don’t work well enough. That’s ok. No, it’s not ok.”
Heather’s medicine is crucial for her. “Patients should not be punished for trying to keep from dying. Cannabis helps keep me from dying. That’s what it does.”
Jack Chavez of Colorado: Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
I consider Jack a friend of mine. Jack’s a pretty remarkable guy. Jack has Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I’ve interviewed a number of people with MS, but none quite as remarkable as Jack.
The first time I met Jack was in 2006 while traveling across the country with Journey for Justice 7. My good friend and Denver Caregiver Diana McKindley agreed to introduce me to some of her patients. Jack was number one on the list.
At the time of my interview, Jack was still having difficulty talking. So for the interview, Diana agreed to read a short speech to me that Jack had prepared.
We take for granted the choreography of muscles required to sustain speech. Jack has to concentrate and apply great effort to do what comes naturally for us, even when all he is trying to do is say a few words.
In 1994, Jack was diagnosed with Chronic MS. This progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis is similar to what claimed the life of comedian Richard Pryor.
In November of 1994, he woke up and tried to stand. He fell and never walked again. Two months later, he lost his speech. He moved from Breckinridge, Colorado to Denver to live with his Mother.
Growing weaker, his older sister told his Mother to put him in a nursing home. He was in a nursing home three more times. His mother asked him to make her his legal guardian.
Soon, he was bed-ridden. People would speak in front of him as if he was already brain-dead. This is a common complaint among MS patients, according to Diana, Jack’s caregiver. “They may appear to be in a coma state, but in fact they’re wide awake. But they’re treated like they’re dead.”
Jack was moved in with a black man with cerebral palsy. Every day, the man would come over to Jack and tuck a Cannabis bud between Jack’s teeth and gum, to sooth Jack’s discomfort. Jack told me that he would suck on it all day. It helped him get through the ordeal he was experiencing.
He was given a G tube and was put on a liquid diet with a pump. His health was at its lowest. He weighed 85 lb. He couldn’t move at all. He started praying to God. He said, “It made me feel better. “
Six month later, Jack’s Gall Bladder was removed. Following surgery, the nurse was talking to him as if he could respond. His nurse leaned over him, looking into his eyes, and asked him if he would like a drink of water. He thought that would be good, so with all his strength, he winked at her. She screamed with joy. The nurses and doctors surrounded him.
He had no movement for two and a half years.
In November of 1998, Jack was healthy enough to have his G tube removed. By December, he was able to eat soft foods. He was now up to 100 pounds. He Started speaking, one word at a time at first, and began moving his left arm, left foot and toes.
In January of 1999, Jack applied for section 8 housing and by July they had found him a place.
At the time of my interview, Jack was living by himself. He’s witnessed many miracles. He now speaks sentences. He feeds himself. Brushes his teeth, holds his own glass.
He gets three visits a day seven days a week from his health agency since he was still not able to cook, clean or bathe. But he’s proud of what he can do. His physical therapist is now placing ever wider rolls of towels in his right hand. They’re helping to stretch the atrophied ligaments for his fingers. He’s regaining the use of his right hand and arm. The healing continues.
The pain Jack suffers now is in his neck. It is not related to his MS. He has a narrowing of his spinal cord. The doctors told him that he would have a 50-50 chance of correcting it with surgery. He’s on a lot of pain pills – 100 Percocets per month, 40 Dilantins per month, and a Morphine patch every three days.
Using Cannabis allows him to cut his pharmaceutical use in half.
With Diana’s help, Jack became a caregiver. Along with his son’s help, Jack maintains a garden and provides medicine for others who are chronically or terminally ill.
The healing continues; not only for Jack, but also through those whom Jack provides.
Buddy Talley of North Carolina: Neuropathy of the Feet
Buddy is 86 years old. He started in the tobacco business when he was 17. He didn’t retire until he was 73. A buyer for Kent, Newport and Old Gold, the fast paced, highly competitive world of a tobacco broker was the driving force for most of his life.
Buddy has outlived his wife by eighteen years. Now it’s just him and his son Tom. Tom is Buddy’s caregiver, now. Tom is also chronically ill.
Buddy has been suffering with Neuropathy of the feet for twenty years. He said that it feels like nails piercing the bottom of his feet. ” I jus’ never had anything in my life to hurt like this.”
Neuropathy encompasses more than 100 diseases and conditions affecting the peripheral nerves-the motor, sensory and autonomic nerves that connect the spinal cord to muscles, skin and internal organs. It usually affects the hands and feet, causing weakness, numbness, tingling and pain.
Buddy is a veteran. He served four years during World War II. He was told that it was probably the long walks packing heavy equipment that lead to his feet problems.
Two recent scientific studies (Headline from 2007) have confirmed what Buddy has found (that conventional narcotics don’t work for his condition) and what he has been told (that Cannabis is effective for Neuropathic foot pain). A video from the 2004 Cannabis Therapeutics Conference, hosted by Patients Out of Time, features Dr. Donald Abrams, who conducted one of the studies in San Francisco, explaining the protocols for this government sanctioned research.
Buddy also has Rheumatoid Arthritis. He’s been ailing with it for 12 years. The stiffness in Buddy’s joints confines him to his easy chair and has hopelessly shackled him to pharmaceuticals. He had to elevate his legs to make it through our interview.
Buddy has skin cancer across the top of his head and down his back. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is one of several colored cancerous lesions visible on the surface of his bare scalp.
Buddy told me that most times, he’d rather be dead. He quickly adds that he won’t kill himself, but, “…I’d rather be dead.” The pain he deals with is that intense.
Over a decade of chronic illness and inefficiently treating it with prescriptions drugs has lead him to this point. There must be something else. For Buddy, even the thought of dying is a welcomed relief when faced with the ever growing pain he is experiencing.
Buddy and his son Tom are avid readers. That’s evident from the stacks of books that fill their home. Decades of captivity to their illnesses have honed their ability to research. It is that energy that they focused on finding relief from the pain and discomfort they both experience.
Though conventional medicine fell short of a solution, one 4,000 year old medicinal herb continually surfaced in their study. Cannabis. From what they read, studies had shown that it not only could relieve pain and was a natural anti-inflammatory, but could also be used to increase the effectiveness of conventional medicine so that they could minimize the damage that opiates can cause to their livers and gastro-intestinal tract.
Buddy and Tom don’t want to break the law. They don’t want to live out the rest of their lives in excruciating misery, either. Buddy says his state legislator won’t listen to him because he’s a Democrat.
It seems all too many of our elected officials are out of touch with the chronically ill. They steer clear of the controversial issues like cannabis, even when they know that millions of Americans could benefit from this holistic medicine.
What’s it going to take? A hundred testimonies like this? A thousand? Just how many more chronically ill Americans must face the fear and indignity of prosecution, even as their very lives are in peril from disease or critical injury.
Catherine Adaberry of Missouri: Breast Cancer
Catherine developed breast cancer in 2002. She was in her 40’s. No one in her family had ever dealt with the disease. It was a difficult time for her and her loved ones. She underwent surgery and considerable chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “Physically, it took quite a toll on me…I was very sick.”
“I was sick the whole time, and I used marijuana. It helped.”
She had heard that cannabis could help with those battling cancer. A member of her extended family had dealt with brain cancer. He used cannabis and attributed his prolonged life to his use of cannabis.
With the chemo, Catherine didn’t want to eat. She just didn’t have an appetite. She was a nervous wreck. “I would smoke and I could eat. I would smoke and I could sleep. With the radiation, it was the same thing.”
“There’s just so much stress with having cancer. I mean, your hair falls out. You don’t feel good. I had grand babies during that time and I couldn’t hold them. I was an emotional wreck. It helped. So many pills…you don’t want to take another pill. It was so much better just to smoke – and to eat – and to smoke – and to sleep.”
She lived in Sheldon and would have to travel to treatment in Kansas City or Joplin. When she was undergoing chemotherapy, she would have to spend the night there. It was stressful having to carry cannabis with her. But it was necessary, to get through the treatments.
She would tell others who were also battling cancer about cannabis. “It helps with your stomach. Your stomach is just in knots all the time. It does help. It helped me a lot.”
The stress of trying to find cannabis was particular hard. It’s unfortunate, but most cancer patients across this country have to go to the street to get their medicine; from someone they don’t know, dealing out of their car. Never knowing what they are getting. “And you don’t know what kind of trouble you might be getting yourself into, either. If it would have been legal, things would have been a lot easier.”
These days, she’s doing well. But she still talks to people about cannabis; those diagnosed with cancer. If they can’t eat or can’t sleep – “I know it will help them.”
Todd Walk of Missouri: Spinal Injury, Neurological Pain
Todd has a spinal cord injury at T3, that’s complete paralysis from about the mid-chest down. Because of the traumatic nature of his injury, he suffers from neurological pain.
It’s tough for Todd to describe the experience. “…strangest type of pain you can describe. You can’t understand what it’s like unless you have it.”
There can be different degrees. Todd’s is moderate to severe. “It’s like being burned or stabbed, or, anything like that…twenty-four hours a day.”
For Todd, it’s worse at night. “It’s not as bad during the day as long as I take my pharmaceutical medication.”
The pain is particularly bad when storms are coming in and when he forgets to take his medicine.
“Nothing really seems to help.” Todd is prescribed a number of anti-seizure medications. “Some, I take for the baseline pain, but they don’t help with the flare-ups.” Opiates are reserved for the flare-ups. “That doesn’t seem to do much either.”
Todd is currently taking Gabapentin and Neuronton, both anti-epileptic, anticonvulsants. Both very serious drugs with very serious side effects. He is currently taking their maximum dose.
He has also taken Vicodin, Oxycontin, both of which are highly addictive opioid pain killers.
“It’s not like you broke a bone or you cut your arm. The pain is completely different. They (pharmaceuticals) don’t seem to work with that kind of pain. Rarely, if ever.”
When he takes the seizure medication that’s prescribed for the pain, it will make him so drowsy that it’s hard to get up in the morning. Often, he feels that way ’til bedtime, at least, until his body acclimates to the drug.
With the Oxycontin and Vicodin, not only has he experienced drowsiness, but also nausea. “It makes you feel like you don’t want to go to work; to school.”
“I have a flare-up at least two or three times a week where it does get bad.” That’s when he takes the strong pain medications.
Todd has been using cannabis medicinally for about a year. “It doesn’t take the pain away completely, but much more so than any medication I have been prescribed.”
But how does he function? “I function very well.”
“I’m lucky in that most of my flare-ups happen at night. …it’s much easier to relax at night (with cannabis) than with Oxycontin or Vicodin or morphine or anything like that. It’s the best kind of medication for my type of pain that I could recommend to anybody. …I don’t have to worry about the APAP in Vicodin that damages your liver.
In summing up the interview, Todd was asked what he would say to those with similar injuries. He had only three words. “Use what works.”
Jacqueline Patterson of California: Cerebral Palsy, Stuttering
Jacqueline used to live in Kansas City, Missouri. Jacqueline, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy and a moderate stutter, doses with Cannabis to ease her symptoms. When she is able to use cannabis, the pain associated with her disability lessens and her stutter becomes all but negligible.
While living in Kansas City, she was under the constant threat of losing her children since the state of Missouri and it’s law enforcement refuse to recognize her holistic choice for medicine. To them, Jacqueline, in spite of her condition, is nothing more than an addict and a danger to her children.
She had to flee to California or face having her children removed from her and placed in foster care.
Jacqueline became known nationally when she appeared in Showtime’s documentary “In Pot We Trust”. During the film, she demonstrates for the camera the transformation that occurs when she medicates.
She’s been living in California for about a year now. “It’s nice to be normal. It’s nice to be able to send my kids to school and not worry that I’m going to get a knock on the door from Child Protective Services. It’s nice to not be treated like a criminal.”
“As Federal cannabis patient George McMahon says, the rights of one man belong to us all.”
Marena Collins of Missouri: Arthritits
Marena is from Clinton, Missouri. She suffers from arthritis. She’s no longer able to take anti-inflammatories. The only pharmaceutical that she is currently taking, she may have to stop, since her stomach and liver are already compromised by the prescriptions she has taken in the past. The only medicine that she can be certain that her body will not eventually reject is cannabis.
“I didn’t know how bad my arthritis was until a few months ago. …I ran out of cannabis. I thought my arthritis was just some aches and pains here and there. But when I ran out of cannabis, slowly, over time, my body began to stiffen up.”
She discovered that the stiffness in her joints rendered her almost completely incapacitated.
“I called my doctor. He asked me what I was taking for anti-inflammatory and pain. I told him cannabis. He said to go get more. That was the best thing there was. He couldn’t give me anything better. He talked a little bit about the side effects and the side effects of contemporary (pharmaceutical) medications. I would much rather do the cannabis.”
Marena has had internal bleeding from the anti-inflammatories.
Marena has a small dog called Bug. Bug has a disorder that causes her to have very bad seizures. Despite the care of an attentive veterinarian, she still has one to four seizures a day.
Bug began climbing up on the back of Marena’s chair when she would medicate with cannabis. Not long there after, her and her husband noticed that Bug’s seizures began to slowly reduce in frequency and severity until they stopped all together.
They didn’t know what to make of this, so they decided to ban their little dog from the room when Marena would medicate. Soon thereafter, Bug’s seizures returned.
“We need medical cannabis in Missouri. We need medical cannabis everywhere. There are patients everywhere who need it.”
When asked if there were patients in rural Missouri who needed cannabis, she responded: “You bet there is.”
Marena’s son has been on pain killers following a car accident. His physicians prescribed opiates. The opiates led to an addiction that eventually damaged his liver and put him in the hospital.
“He tells me that cannabis relieves his pain.”
Though cannabis could replace all of her son’s prescription pain medicine, he can’t use it all the time. He doesn’t have the finances to pay the blackmarket prices. Consequently, he is forced to remain on dangerous pharmaceuticals that in fact threaten his life. Between the prescription drugs and his chronic illness, he is forced to seek full disability. If cannabis was legally available to him, he could possibly work and avoid the pitfalls of Disability.
Where Marena lives there is an organization called FAM, Farmers Against Marijuana. “They drive around through fields and down through core land looking for marijuana fields so they can burn it.”
“This is medication.”
There are stiff penalties in Missouri for cultivation that could put any patient in prison for a number of years.
“This whole thing is just wrong. It’s been around for so long. People have just gotten used to it. They don’t realize that a lot of crime comes from prohibition.
I know some people who had a problem with cannabis, until they became ill. They moved to another state and found that cannabis was good.” Marena chuckles.
“More people need to know. We need to get that word out there. This is not a demon thing. This is good. This is something we have been given to care for our bodies. We’ve made it illegal so no one can use it.”
Joe Cullin of North Carolina: Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Multiple Sclerosis
Joe lives in Whitier, a very rural part of North Carolina. He began using cannabis in 1999, following the accelerated progression of his congenital disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth, or CMT, is the most commonly inherited neurological disorder. It affects an estimated 2.6 million people.
Joe’s condition is slowly robbing him of the use of his limbs. He is already confined to a power wheelchair.
“It gives me muscle spasms and loss of nerve to muscle control…I cannot control balance; how to walk, anything like that…”
He has chronic pain that accompanies the spasms. Joe has found that cannabis relaxes his muscles when he has these episodes, much better than with the Flexoril that his physician has prescribed him; better than the Vicodin or Hydrocodone. The opioid narcotics made his skin crawl and itch.
Joe has seen a slow but steady decline in his physical strength and balance. At times, he is depressed. But he’s not tempted to seek refuge in alcohol or other drugs. To him, those would just be escapism. What he has found with cannabis is that it helps him deal with his disability rather than hiding it in a stupor. “I’ve seen what anti-depressants have done to friends of mine. And it’s really ugly, some of it.”
“I can take a couple of puffs from some medicinal herb and really feel a whole lot better throughout the day.”
Though Joe has found a safe, effective holistic treatment for his very serious condition, he is faced with another dilemma: Acquiring it. Difficult enough, with the fact that he lives in rural North Carolina, but then there is his obvious mobility restriction, and the financial limitation of being on Disability.
If only Joe were allowed to grow his own medicine. He wouldn’t have to jeopardize his safety by driving into the city and risking his safety with the black market.
Linda Yelvington of Missouri: Scoliosis, Chronic Pain
Linda lives about twenty minutes outside of Joplin, Missouri.
Linda has been active in the movement for legalization for many years; since the 70’s. “It just doesn’t make since for it to be illegal – for something that is essentially harmless.”
Linda has Scoliosis. She was treated for it with a Milwaukee Brace when she was a teenager. That experience alone brought on depression.
She had her hip replaced when she was sixteen following a car accident. She also has degenerative problems in both wrists that make it difficult to work with a cane when her “bad hip” is aggravating her. She also has degenerative disc disease.
Hydrocodone, Darvon, Darvocet, Vicodin, she has run the gamete of pain killers. Such has also been the case with anti-depressants. She began taking Zoloft following the passing of her father. She has also been on Xanax.
There came a point in her life when she realized that the doctors were just “shoving more and more opiates at me – whatever they could prescribe, and it wasn’t helping – and cannabis did”.
Linda’s many debilitating illnesses make everyday life difficult for her. When pharmaceuticals would fall short of relieving her symptoms, cannabis would give her the relief she needed. “It works as a mood elevator, it provides relief from stress. With it, sometimes I don’t need to take the pain pills at all.”
But even during the times when pharmaceuticals are needed, cannabis helps relieve the side effects they cause. “The Hydrocodone makes me nauseous… I would prefer to just use the cannabis. I have to use cannabis if I use pain medicine, or I won’t be able to eat.”
“It’s a shame that I am being prescribed addictive drugs (opiates) rather than allowing me to medicate with something non-addictive (cannabis).”
What side effects does she experience from cannabis? It increases her appetite (a good thing since she tends to be anorexic) and it makes her sleepy sometimes (again, good since she often has trouble sleeping).
“When I would come home from working long hours, and I would hurt all over, and I was too tired to fix something to eat…it was too painful, I would smoke a little cannabis and my appetite would return. I would fix something to eat and I could sleep instead of being in pain. So the side effects from cannabis are good side effects.”
Using a vaporizer with her cannabis alleviates any respiratory irritation. “Since moving here, I have developed allergies. Cannabis really does help with breathing difficulties and allergies.”
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