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Monday, June 23, 2014

Mimi's Story

Well it's been awhile since I received a patient's story so I'm very glad to be able to share with you Mimi's story. At the end I will post Mimi's video and Ohio's medical cannabis organization's link. So in her own words here's Mimi's Story.

Ok, not a lot of you know about this, so I figured I would share the full story of everything that has been going on with me. Today is a special day because today marks the one year anniversary of being able to live without my feeding tube. I know this is long so, sorry in advance. I've tagged some of the people who have personally helped me on this journey. It wouldn't let me tag everyone but thank you to you all.
My name is Mimi Friedman and my story begins on New Year's Eve 2002/2003. I was healthy, employed, and ambitious. I had left a friend's house and while driving home, I was rear ended at 50mph while stopped at a red light. I had never been injured or sick or anything and figured I was just sore from the accident and I ignored the pain. I kept working and pushing through all the problems I was having for almost a month until I was in so much pain I was crying and throwing up. I made an appointment with a doctor and after a full set of xrays and MRI's, it was determined that I needed to be on bed rest and would have to use krutches to get around. I was 19, alone, and scared. Not knowing what to do, and having no choice but to support myself, I entered into pain management therapy. I was immediately prescribed 120 muscle relaxers and 120 pain killers per month. I was miserable and felt like my whole life revolved around taking my medicine at the right time because if I didn't I would be sick and completely debilitated from the pain. I took 240 pills a month for about 3 years in addition to getting 13 cortisone shots in my spine and left hip. After 3 years, I developed ulcers. I had to go to the emergency room multiple times for vomiting blood. I was also developing insomnia, so in addition to the 240 pain killers and muscle relaxers, I began being prescribed 90 sleeping pills and was told to take prilosec every day. I struggled along for an additional 2 years taking 50-60 prilosec, 90 restoril, 120 soma, and 120 roxycodone per month. I felt like I had no choice but to keep taking the pills to keep going to work, so I could get home everyday and begin the recovery process to prepare for the next day. I was in constant agony and getting sicker. Then, in October of 2008, things took a turn for the worst. I started throwing up every time I ate. I was forced to go to the hospital after a few days of waiting it out, and for the first time in my life, I was admitted. After being in the hospital for a week, it was determined that they still didn't know exactly what was wrong with me, but it was a problem somewhere in my digestive tract. I was released from the hospital with prescriptions for anti nausea medicine and more pain killers that did nothing for me. I was completely unable to eat or drink anything, and after being released from the hospital, it was only 6 days before I was readmitted. While in the hospital, I was given IV pain killers and nausea meds some of which have since been banned due to the health problems they caused in other patients. This dragged on for 5 and a half months with the doctors at the hospital saying they weren't sure what was wrong with me or what to do to help. I would be in the hospital for 5-7 days at a time on average, then get released only to have my electrolytes drop to dangerous levels within a week forcing me to be readmitted to the hospital. I was constantly dizzy, nauseous, weak, and came very dangerously close to death many times. My life was completely consumed by being in and out of the hospital, and trying to survive while I was at home. I had my gall bladder removed along with a lypoma in my abdomen with no positive results. I wanted to give up many times and no one was offering anything that would help. In early 2009, it was finally determined that my diagnosis was a rare esophageal motility disorder called Achalasia in addition to peptic ulcer disease and a sliding hiatal hernia. I was scheduled to have another surgery called a heller's myotomy with DOR fundoplication. The surgery was too complicated for the hospital I was at to preform, so I was transferred to another facility in a more major city. I was scared to have another surgery, but looking forward to finally having a diagnosis and possible solution. I had been surviving completely on IV fluids and electrolyte replacement through a PICC line in my right arm. When I was transferred to the new hospital, it was determined that I had contracted MRSA through the line and I was given 4 days of antibiotics, and an NG feeding tube. Once the infection was cleared, I went into surgery for the second time in 4 months. When I woke up, there was a clear liquid tray next to me. I thought it was a mistake and was afraid to even look at it because I hadn't gone one day in 6 months without vomiting at least once. I did well with the clear liquids and recovered. The wounds from surgery were healing, but I had no idea what I would go through once I got home. I was so afraid of food and my hunger response shut down, so forcing myself to eat and drink was nearly impossible. My “good surgical results” only lasted for a rough 8 months before I was again unable to eat solid food. I moved back to my birth state of Ohio in Late 2009 at the urging of friends. I was still throwing up most things I ate and had gotten so completely used to the process of waiting until I couldn't wait anymore, then going to a local hospital for a “patch job” then starting over. One day I was at an old friend from high school's house and he asked if I wanted to smoke a joint. I had been an occasional recreational smoker since high school and had never had a problem with it. After just a few hits off the joint, I felt a feeling I hadn't felt since March... hunger. I found I was able to eat small amounts of food as long as I was careful. I started smoking more and more with friends and the more I smoked, the better my results got. Living in Ohio, an illegal state, getting cannabis was hard and getting quality was impossible as I still had no income. The risks of being a new found criminal, in addition to the stress of being sick all the time were taking a big toll on my still declining health. I smoked whatever I could afford or what friends would provide and my hospital trips became slightly less frequent, but I was still extremely sick. A doctor in Columbus, having heard about my results with cannabis decided to try something new for me because the IV nausea medicine was not working for my condition. His solution was IV benedryl. In it's IV form, benedryl acts as a powerful anti-spasmic medication that they were using for MS patients. It worked, but was a very heavy sedative. I was told that I would have to just “get used to” the medicine's effects because when my dosage levels were figured out, it was determined that I needed 50mgs every 4 hours. In 2010 due to doctors saying they weren't sure what else to do to help me, I became a Cleveland Clinic patient. I was living in Columbus at the time and the greyhound rides to cleveland were tough. I had no insurance, no job, no money, and no hope. I went to the emergency room and was admitted. My initial stay and testing took 12 long days of pain, sleepless nights, constant nausea, and around the clock IV drug therapy. They continued my benedryl regimen because it was the only thing other than cannabis that worked for me. I was born and raised in Ohio and did the DARE program in school and was raised with the reefer madness mentality so prevalent in the country at that time. I was never told that cannabis could save my life, and I was shocked by my results. Not wanting to be a criminal anymore, I got a friend to buy me a greyhound ticket to Montana, where I had a place to stay for a short period of time. While I was there, I was sponsored to get my medical marijuana card and had a compassionate caregiver that wanted to work with me. Finally, I was around people that understood how important this medicine was. In Montana, I had access to medical grade cannabis for the first time and I was able to do so much. I could eat, and exercise, and stand up long enough to dry and straighten my hair after a shower. I returned to Ohio from my trip in April of 2010 determined to keep a constant supply of the only medicine that worked for me and to speak out a lot more so other patients wouldn't have to suffer like I did. Struggling to access the medicine proved almost more trouble than it was worth and even with an almost constant supply, the quality was not what I needed and I was forced to move to Cleveland to be closer to the main hospital that I didn't go longer than 5-6 weeks at a time without being readmitted to. A custom team was put together for my case and despite having some of the best minds in the world on my case, my health slipped further and a corpak feeding tube was put in and I was told I would have to be attached to a feeding pump machine 24 hours a day. I had constant problems with the tube in my nose and it had to be replaced 6 times. I had been through so many procedures at that point that the standard “twilight sleep” dose of 50mcgs of fentanyl and 4mgs of versed no longer worked for me and I needed general anesthesia for the greater majority of those in addition to all my other IV medicines. I was barely functional and my doctors decided to surgically implant a J tube. That procedure was preformed in February of 2012. I was told I would need the feeding tube constantly running for the rest of my life. At only 29 years of age, my life was over. I was in constant pain from the feeding tube, and had a lot of issues with it. I was repeatedly in the hospital for pain so severe I couldn't move without screaming. When I stopped smoking cannabis for even 3 hours, the constant vomiting would start again. Although having the feeding tube allowed me to stay nourished thus out of the hospital, I was in hell. I had to spend over 75% of my day lying down. I couldn't even go to the grocery store without having to recover for hours from it. I was dying and my doctors were running out of options quickly. My medical team said my achalasia is now considered "end stage" and I have spasms in other parts of my esophagus also. It is also suspected by my medical team that I have gastroparesis. A surgical option was presented to me that would have involved complete esophagectomy, stomach repositioning, and rerouting the feeding tube I would need for the rest of my life. After a number of in depth conversations about cannabis with my lead surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, he said I should move to a legal state permanently because the surgical option presented was a “last hope” procedure that he didn't think would help me and would make my life worse. Alone and scared, I left Ohio for New Mexico. To be completely honest, I was just planning on trying to see the western states before I died. I had no hope of recovery because I thought my health was too far gone and in Ohio, it was. When I got to New Mexico I stayed with a friend that tried her hardest to help me, but my pain and illness sent me to the hospital again. I was in so much pain from my feeding tube I didn't know what to do anymore, and it was suggested that it be removed while I was in the hospital. I had nothing to lose at that point, so I agreed. After my feeding tube was removed, I had to get somewhere quickly because I no longer had a source of nutrition. It was January of 2013. I called a friend in Colorado and he said if I took a greyhound to denver, he would pick me up. In the freezing, snowy cold with 2 huge suitcases of all my clothes and a hole in my abdomen where my feeding tube had been, I got on an 8 hour bus ride. I was so sick and exhausted, I climbed into the bed in the guest room still wearing my winter coat and slept. The next morning I woke up in Colorado and was able to smoke for the first time. After only 3 hits of medical grade cannabis I felt my body temperature rising back up to normal levels, my heart rate stabilized, the vomiting stopped, and I felt alive for the first time since my brief stay in Montana in 2010. I reached out to the community in Colorado and I was embraced with open arms. They taught me everything about different forms of cannabis medicine including concentrates. For the first time since my brief stay in Montana in 2010, I had constant access to medical grade, high quality medicine. After doing a lot of independent research on what works the best for me, I have figured out that if I keep a constant supply of 2-2.5 grams per week of pure indica concentrated cannabis, I can eat almost normal amounts of food and I have now been living without my feeding tube for a whole year. My doctors at the Cleveland Clinic told me this would never be possible again. I am healthier now than I have been since high school. I am still shocked by how well I am doing on a day to day basis. I still struggle with problems, but I'm not dying anymore. I was so sick I gave up on my life completely, but now I wouldn't trade it for the world. Everyone needs to know what cannabis saves lives. If I had been told about, and been given legal access to cannabis concentrates, it's highly possible that none of my surgeries would have been necessary. I could have recovered from my car accident injuries and moved on with my life. Please, step away from the belief that western medicine is the only way to treat illness and injury. I want my story to help other patients realize that even if they tell you you are dying, there is another option. I will fight for the rest of my life to educate people about the benefits of this plant so people don't have to suffer like I did. I now live in Colorado Springs and although I still have some problems, I can live now. It's a happily ever after story I never dreamed I would be a part of. Unless you are an activist, or are close friends with at least one, everything you think you know about cannabis is probably incomplete/wrong. Please, educate yourselves and if you are sick, try cannabis. It could be the difference between your future and your funeral.

Mimi made a video that shows just what she is living with. If you don't know what cannabis means to us the patients that need medicinal cannabis this is a must see:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tJwzp75mCw 

As promised here's the link at the end of the video. When I put in the address it sends you to a new site. http://www.ohiorightsgroup.org 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finally Maryland is 21st MMJ state



This week Maryland passed a workable medical marijuana law. Hallelujah. This is the culmination of years of work by a variety of legislators and activists. The first person who needs recognition is Del. Don Murphy (R) Dist. 12A. Don started this ball rolling when he managed to get the Darrell Putnam Compassionate Use Act passed. Along with Don we need to acknowledge Darrell Putnam’s roll as well as his friends and family for their part.
Next to pick up the ball and run with it were Del. Nathaniel Oaks (D) Dist. 41 and Sen. Lisa Gladden (D) Dist. 41 in 2007. This is when I got involved. It unfortunately died in committee despite strong support for the bill. This is also when a variety of pro medical marijuana groups joined the fight, seeing that Maryland was ready for medical marijuana; it just needed a little push.
Following a couple of years of inaction Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim joined the fight. I still remember that first year and how frustrated I was when we didn’t get anything passed. I told my delegate Del. Jimmy Malone (D) Dist. 12A about my frustration and he told me that Del. Morhaim is like a dog that won’t let go of the bone when he’s passionate about something. How true that turned out to be. Thru fits and starts, and a lot of give and take Del. Morhaim this year formed an alliance with Del. Cheryl Glenn (D) Dist. 45. This proved to be the winning combination.
I cannot leave out the tenacious work of two senators, Sen. Lisa Gladden (D) Dist. 41 and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) Dist. 20. Sen. Gladden in her role as vice-chairman of the powerful Judicial Proceedings committee always made sure we at least got a fair hearing. Sen. Raskin, because it was he that fought each year to include what is still missing from the law passed this year, the right to grow our own medicine. Both senators however have been staunch allies in the fight for a workable medical marijuana law.
Next I want to acknowledge the work of the patients. While I may have been the first it would never have gotten done if over the years I hadn’t been join by dozens of other patients in the years that followed my first testimony. After all, this issue is about sick people. People much sicker than I have made the trek to Annapolis to join me and stand before one committee after another to say, “I’m sick. Marijuana helps me; it is effective medicine.” Their stories tipped the scales. It is to them that the credit goes to. Del. Morhaim may have tried to pass a medical marijuana bill but if not for the brave patients putting a face to the issue I do not believe he could have succeeded in such a short period of time.
Lastly I want to acknowledge “The Fourth Estate.” Our local press has been nothing but supportive thru this whole process. I have watched and listen as newspapers, radio stations and television stations interviewed patients and activists, Not once did I hear a reporter ask a “gotcha” question. It is they that helped get our stories in front of our fellow Marylanders. After which my fellow citizens let their senators and delegates know that they support the patients.
At times this has seemed like a long and impossible journey. It has only been due to the support of my family, friends and neighbors that I personally found the strength to keep going. The patients who traveled to Annapolis in the bitter cold of Januarys and Februarys, the wind and rain of March and April have said the same thing. It is they who now get to breathe a sigh of relief. Congratulations to them all for making Maryland the 21st state to pass a workable medical marijuana law.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2014 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference



Beginning Friday evening activists from around the country began to gather at The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC. The conference will continue thru Monday, April 7th. The event was hosted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and its leader Steph Sherer. I want to thank Hunter Holliman of ASA and my friend Ken Kopper for getting me into the conference yesterday.
Boy you do what you can to press for change and you feel pretty good about yourself. Then you attend a conference like this and you realize you’re a bit of a slacker. Obviously not that’s not true but considering all that the other attendees did and spent to get here, you see others are doing so much more. They should all be commended for their commitment.
One high point of the day was getting to meet Teri Robnet (RxMaryJane) from Colorado. She’s one of my favorite posters on Facebook but more important are the hours she has spent pushing for reform in Colorado. Followers of my Facebook page will know her posts and videos. Recently she has been pushing hard to educate the Colorado legislature that just because you have 5 nanograms of THC in your system it doesn’t mean you’re driving stoned.
Recently I got the chance to use some of what RxMaryJane has taught me on this subject when talking with a small town chief of police. His panel at a recent hearing showed some really stoned people at Hempfest talking about driving high. First I pointed out that as a theatre producer (in a past life) I could have shot that same video on the same day and he would have come away thinking only doctors, lawyers and clergy were there. Secondly I told him right now if he tested my urine I would definitely bust that limit. I’m overweight and because of that THC will stay in my system much longer than when I was a young man barely able to tip the scales over a 130lbs. Even he understood that an arbitrary limit based on THC levels was probably unreasonable but he as a law enforcement officer still wants some way to quantify how impaired a driver is and how long that impairment lasts to keep our roads safe.
The Saturday session began with an opening speech from Jim Tozzi, Ph.D. which among other things dealt with the future regulation of the medical cannabis industry. His idea is to follow the insurance industry model. While federal law has certain requirements when it comes to insurance it leaves the day to day regulating up to the states. To simplify this idea Congress can pass a law that simply legalizes the medicinal use of cannabis but leave regulation up to the individual states. Great idea.
The next panel dealt with link to medicinal cannabis and other herbal medicines. The highlight of this panel was getting to hear Dr. Lyle Craker, P.D. of UMass Amherst speak. Dr. Craker for those who do not know is the professor who continues to petition the government for permits to grow his own marijuana to use in his future studies. I got to interview Dr. Craker when writing an op-ed that ran a few years ago. Most notably in his case is there was a DEA administrative law hearing that said the DEA needed to let Dr. Craker have his permit. However, Michelle Leonhart, then a Deputy but now Director of the DEA refused to issue the permit in defiance of that ruling. Last year the US First Dist. Ct. of Appeals sided with Leonhart & the DEA.
Overall this panel had a lot to teach about the various other plants that are used in the growing herbal medicine industry. Even some of those plants have myths and facts that need clarifying. The thrust of this panel was to say we should look at the models government has when regulating Ginseng and other herbal medicines and apply them to the cultivation of cannabis.
My favorite presentation dealt with looking to change regulations from being based on a per plant model like New Mexico’s 150 plant limit for large cultivations to a square footage model sometimes called a canopy model. This presenter (I apologize that I didn’t write down the presenter’s name) suggested that we need to stop using the word cultivation and replace it with farming. For what we want in the future is a system that allows for outdoor grows to reduce our industries carbon foot print.
Also their plan should help limit what are called trespass grows. Trespass grows as you may know is the term for those destructive grows on our public lands. These illegal grows have been in the news a lot in recent years. Readers of Casey’s Dream may remember “Glorifying the War on Drugs” which ran on March 22, 2012: http://caseysdream.blogspot.com/2012/03/glorifying-war-on-drugs.html. The point that was made was if we allowed legal outdoor grows the number of these trespass grows should decrease.
One thing that impressed me with this panel was listening to them refer to cannabis production as farming and their exact facts & figures pertaining to acreage and yield of a crop that is still illegal under federal law. What they demonstrated and very strongly, are that when Congress wakes up and join the 21st century our farmers are ready to rock & roll.
With the right regulations under legalization we can use some of the tax money collected to return to those public lands and clean up the mess left behind by the illegal growers. As it is now when the DEA raids these grows all they do is get rid of the cannabis. The rest of the mess, the illegal fertilizers, creek diverters and all sorts of other trash is left right where they find it. What we want is to be a responsible industry and to demonstrate this we would go back reclaim those public lands. If we don’t the growers just return for the next growing season.
After lunch I missed part of the State of the States panel. But what I did learn was that New Mexico’s program is improving despite a combative administration in Santa Fe. They have increased the number of qualifying conditions to 17, still too few. Large grows can have 150 plants but heavily regulated. Plus the supply is being kept artificially short to prevent diversion. This obviously leads to patients not able to get their medicine.
Personal cultivation does have reasonable if not generous limits. You are allowed to have 16 plants four of which can be at the flowering stage. Compare this to the proposals Maryland has try to adopt which would allow for only 10 plants and 2 oz. of prepared ready to use cannabis.
Colorado has been seeing a slight uptick in medical marijuana registration after an initial drop off. Some people let their cards lapse when the recreational marijuana law passed. However what they are finding is that if you go thru the medicinal program your cannabis is cheaper. This is most starkly demonstrated when shopping in a dual use store. Colorado has three types of retail stores for cannabis, medical, recreational, and dual use. When one shops in a dual use store they quickly realize that the medicinal side has more strains to choose from and the added benefit of not having to pay the high taxes imposed on recreational marijuana.
My fellow rabble rouser from Maryland, Eric Sterling gave the report on medical marijuana here at home. I felt sorry for Eric since he couldn’t give the most up to date report as the General Assembly was still voting this year’s marijuana reform bills.
Eric told the attendees the tale of the Darrell Putnam Compassionate Use Act and the various attempts since 2011 which saw the passage of a real affirmative defense statute. He told the about the formation of Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission which he is a member of. This was followed by passing the current law which called for academic medical centers to administer a research program. As expected by those in the know, no academic medical centers are interested in risking federal research grants by getting involved in administering a program the federal government considers illegal.
Following his presentation I spoke to Eric about why he left out our efforts in 2007 which in many ways re-fired up the push for marijuana reform. He explained that he was limited by time. I suspect that despite being a very articulate advocate for reform Eric might have also been dealing with more than a little bit of stage fright. I know he is more than a little frustrated that he couldn’t come to this conference and announce victory in Maryland. Sadly that is still somewhere off in the future.
Next state up was New Jersey. Boy what a mess those people have on their hands' which begs the re-asking “Del. Morhaim why are we using their law as a model for your bills?” The state for one has set the price of marijuana thru their system at $500.00/oz. Compare this to what my So. Jersey friends pay now of $250-$350/oz. Why would anyone sign up to pay up to 100% more for something they get cheaper on the street?
That’s not the half of their problems though. It’s $1,000.00 to get a card. You have to get a recommendation from a very limited registry of doctors, most of whom are not registered and don’t intend to register. To further inconvenience patients it takes 3 – 12 months to get approved for the program. Still not bad enough? They have only 3 dispensaries open and one of them is only open one day a week. I missed the explanation of why but one bright spot for my friends on the Jersey Shore is that the dispensary in South Jersey gets to sell its cannabis for $400/oz.
Obviously New Jersey biggest problem is their super-size Governor, Chris Christie. He has made no bones about his opposition to medical marijuana. The day’s presenter did have some good news as she was one of the parents that led the fight for access to edibles for children. But even that falls short as her child can only use edibles until age 18, than he must change to smoked cannabis, something he is unable to do.
The next panel was CBD: The Myths and Facts. I have to admit I was lost during most of this group. For one I’m just not up on the issues. My impression is that there is and has been a debate about whether THC is needed to get the medicinal benefit of cannabis or could a CBD only strain work. There was a lot of talk about ratios of THC/CBD; again it was simply over my head.
All in all it was a great day. The hotel & its staff were great and the building is beautiful. However despite medicating in the car before going in the morning and again discreetly behind a potted plant outside in the smoking area (You mean they didn’t mean weed, oh well.) I was really hurting. After all of that I was still too sore to stay for the stakeholders meetings that were scheduled run from 3:30 to 6:00. Even cannabis only goes so far when you push yourself to your limits.
I’m hoping to be able to post videos of the conference as I saw cameras filming it from multiple angles. When they get posted if you see them first let me know so I can share them on this page. After all we’re all in this fight together. The fight to be as pain free as possible is how I describe it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pain, nausea, wasting or seizures if cannabis helps us it is our right to use it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Marijuana Reform Rally & Hearing Mar. 13th 2014

The wind was ripping thru Lawyer’s Mall as a crowd of about 100 people gathered. That’s not a professional estimate but rather what was being reported by media outlets. The air may have been unseasonably cold but the crowd was enthusiastic. Speakers from the ACLU, LEAP, NAACP and others, some speaking for themselves addressed the crowd as news cameras taped the event. I spoke briefly. Later it was inside where the temperature was warmer but the reception even cooler than the outside temp.
Once again the chiefs of police showed up in force. I had forgotten what that was like; see the last two times I came to testify it was for simple medical marijuana not full on legalization. The police and state’s attorney’s usually don’t object too much to medical marijuana. Boy do they speak out when it’s legalization. So yesterday we were treated to a barrage of full on “Reefer Madness” arguments. Despite expert after expert pointing out the fallacies of these arguments their rebuttals were predictable if nothing else.
When I first testified the Bush White House sent their Deputy Director of ONDCP, Dr. Bertha Madras. Her argument was “If the FDA hasn’t approved it, then we shouldn’t be putting it in our bodies. Yesterday, the LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) were just as predictable. We heard about fatal car crashes because cannabis. We heard about how when the police smell cannabis and search they usually come up with much more than marijuana.
Sheriff Mike Lewis I think wanted to bring with him a whole box of flex cuffs and arrested us all figuring he’d get enough THC positive blood samples that it would be worthwhile. When he was testifying it was as if he had learned a new word – secreted. The officer pulled over [fill in vehicle type], smelled cannabis, began a bumper to bumper search founded [fill in amount of drug] secreted in a compartment in [fill in auto body part] being driven up [fill in highway]. The Sheriff ended his litany with finding two dead bodies in the trunk of a car. In other words blah, blah, blah, the war on drugs is needed.
Here’s the deal though. We know about stupid greedy drug dealers that go cruising up I-95 smoking weed and hauling cocaine, heroin & crack. They’re stupid dealers who never the learned the responsible way of selling pot to responsible cannabis users – DON’T BE GREEDY! How do you explain to people with this mindset that they have missed the point that there are tons of cannabis growers that are not a part of the I-95 smuggling trail?
Traffic fatalities, boy this seems to be there rallying cry. Don’t be mistaken, I know about fatal car crashes. I lost a brother to one. They are devastating to the families affected and their friends. But here’s the statistics they quoted to me personally. According to Chief David Morris of Riverdale, Maryland, last year there were over 500 fatal car accidents. In those accidents, 103 involved drivers with BAC’s above the limit, there were 169, where their BAC’s were over .08 plus they had cannabis in their systems. They see this as 169 deaths caused by cannabis rather than what it is which a total of 272 alcohol related fatal accidents. Of that 272 how many are speed related? That will throw out weed as a cause. And no one knows if they are seeing impairment or residual THC in the blood.
I enjoyed being able to look him square in the eye and tell him if he tested me right now I’m pretty sure I’m busting the 5 nanogram limit but I haven’t broken the law and you would still be able to charge me with under the influence even though it’s been days since I smoked. (A true statement most days - that day it wasn’t).
Earlier before the hearing I finally got to do what I always wanted to do which was go nose to nose with Mike Gimbel former Baltimore County Drug Czar. It happened right after what I’ve seen on a couple of channels which is Sheriff Mike Lewis of Wicomico County saying he isn’t going let these baby boomers make pot legal. Mike Gimbel was with that group and began addressing the reporters again. The crowd began to shout him down.
Before I knew it I was yelling too and Mike Gimbal was walking towards me as the crowd parted. Next we were face to face and I finally got to tell him he knows this isn’t working and as a drug councilor he should be standing with us and not the police.
The crowd arrived at the hearing fired up I know I was so when the troopers came over trying to make a path between SRO and seating telling us we had to leave I balked. I challenged what he was saying and told him I wasn’t leaving. I had never been asked to leave before and I have my spot for the hearing and I was staying. A couple of people gathered up computer bags and such making room for my chair at the end of a short aisle as if maybe that was what it was there for. One of them was the head of a coalition of various reform advocacy groups. Unfortunately I cannot recall her name or the name of her coalition. Hey, I’m 60 what can I say.
I hate waiting to testify. You sit there listening to people going ahead of you and one by one the images or facts you have found to bolster your testimony gets used by someone else to bolster theirs. Now as you make your way to the table your brain is going “What else ya got?” In the end though the people you are testifying in front of have heard it all before anyway. It is the underlying energy, the passion you bring to your testimony that gets thru. They’ve heard the facts. When we testify we are showing them the facts.
It doesn’t matter if it is the nurse sharing stories of compassion, students telling stories of police abuse, or everyday people coming to call for a change. A change of course is needed, a change of national policy away from arrest and incarcerate to a new course of identify and treat. Our current policy has the Roaring Twenties to continue to roll.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Doing What We Can

Yesterday I took a trip to Annapolis to beat the bushes for support for HB880. But before that I got to meet two new activist friends Doug & Penni Lynne Day. Monday the General Assembly usually conducts most of it's business during the evening but legislators can sometimes be found in their offices midday.

We didn't get to speak to any legislators but Penni got to introduce herself the Chairman Vallario's staff. She also got a bit of a tour of the House of Delegates Office Building (Casper R. Taylor, Jr. House Office Building). So now she knows to use the elevators that go to all the floors instead of the ones in the lobby.

While we were there we stopped by Del. Mizeur's office. We introduced ourselves to her staff and let them know that we would be attending the Rally for Marijuana Reform on Thursday as well as testifying. They told us that she was around but was trying to attend two committee hearings that were taking place at that same time. We went to both committee rooms but missed her at both.

Later as we were leaving we ran to Gar Roberts of Medical Cannabis Advocates of Maryland. We were talking about last month's op-ed. I was telling him I liked the way it was originally written. He suggested that I post the original version, so that will follow.

I hope to see and meet lots of new people at the Rally for Marijuana Reform on Thursday @ 11AM on Lawyers Mall in front of the State House.

Now before I post the op-ed I need to say this. I appreciate the Baltimore Sun printing my words. Our local paper has always shown me great respect in covering my story which is our story. That said I'm just the writer and as every writer can tell you if you want your piece printed you have to go with the edits.

I also did not title the piece, which is really the only criticism I have. "Fight crime: legalize pot" I felt it trivialized an important point, that being that our public policy on addiction has been a disaster. So what follows was sent titled "Tax & Regulate" (They always change it).


Tax & Regulate

On February 25, 2014 I will testify before the Maryland Judicial Proceedings Committee in favor of SB0658. I looked up the word judicial; it means of or relating to courts of law and judges. Therefor it is the purpose of the Judicial Proceedings Committee to insure that the laws our courts have to rule on are in fact fair and just.

For one hundred years we have set up laws that would create the greatest criminal empires man has known. We are approaching the one hundredth anniversary of the Volstead Act, that kick started the Cosa Nostra. That gave us, Sam Giancano, Al Capone, John Gotti, and Lucky Luciano. Then even after the violence of the Roaring Twenties conservatives like William Randolph Hearst decided since they could not outlaw booze, they would outlaw every other intoxicant. And with that one mind set we have created, Pablo Escobar, The Crypts, The Bloods, and even The Black Guerrilla Family.

Addiction is a terrible health problem. Haven’t enough conservative Republicans gone into detox that we can at least agree on that? The rampant alcohol addiction that inspired Prohibition was just as horrible as the meth addiction we have today, as the cocaine addiction we have, as the heroin addiction we have, and addiction to far too many prescription drugs to list here. Yet we have turned over control of an illegal supply of all these intoxicants to human beings who are so violent we feel we have to train our DEA to behave like Seal Team Six.

Have we not seen enough senseless violence? If the carnage at the Clark Street garage in 1929 was enough to rattle America’s sensibilities, than why hasn’t, the last forty plus years of violence on steroids rattle America’s conscience enough to recognize that it is the same problem with the same result?

 The honorable men & women who make up our police forces know that sending pseudo Seal Team Six teams at our drug problem is like swatting flies with howitzers. They know that so much of the detrimental behavior of addicts is in fact because of their battle with law enforcement to be left alone. Addicts are not the problem it is the violent criminals to whom we have given over control of the addict’s life. It is time to give control over their lives to the doctors and nurses and councilors who can actually make a difference.

In 1982, the late Gov. William Donald Schaeffer was running for his last term as mayor. He held one of those big dinners that politicians are famous for at P. J. Crickets on Pratt St. All the political leaders were there. I was your chef that evening and can honestly tell you this. When I arrived at the restaurant that afternoon I climbed in to the back of my blue VW Mini-Camper and smoked a bowl of marijuana. That evening many of you stuck your head into the kitchen to thank the chef for the wonderful meal you had enjoyed.

It is time to take the first step. As someone who functioned while living a successful, and productive life living in America’s drug sub-culture I can assure you this. Whether it was pot & LSD in the sixties, or the Black Beauty speed and Quaaludes of the seventies or the cocaine of the eighties, the one constant was marijuana.

When you live in that sub-culture unfortunately from time to time you do meet hardcore junkies. Everyone I have ever met has had the same sad story. “I went to buy some weed one night and my guy was out. He convinced me it would be cool to use heroin this time and I can come back tomorrow to buy weed.” There it is - your gateway. But we have cast that gate in gold, encrusted it in diamonds and handed they keys to the most violent criminals the world has ever known. It could not be a worse outcome of political policy than if FDR had been seated at the table with The Commission’s Lucky Luciano and said we get booze - you get all the rest.

It is time to throw a bucket of cold water on this long suffering nightmare that has been drug prohibition. We can begin that by passing a sensible tax & regulate marijuana bill. In recent years I have worked with Del. Morhaim to pass a workable medical marijuana bill. The doctor is fond of saying it is time to get the sick and dying off the battlefield of the war on drugs. I say to you it is time to get all the victims of the war on drugs off the battlefield and we can begin doing that by ending the war on weed.