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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Selma, Race & Voting

As I watched President Obama speaking at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, my emotions were raw.  I was remembering the night my child called to ask, “Is it true, is he really going to be our president?” With pride and tears in my eyes I said, “Yes, we did it.” At the same time memories of watching the evening news on Bloody Sunday and the violence that had rained down on people who only wanted their rights. Then yesterday morning I awoke to the news that fraternity brothers at the University of Oklahoma had been videotaped chanting to the tune “If You Are Happy and You Know It” “there will never be any n****** in SAE.” I got to thinking about how we got here.

Their names were Otha and Marshall. That’s it. Those are the only names of African-American’s with whom I went to school that I remember. I recall them over any others because I stood up for each of them at some point growing up.

Whether I was a line cook or even the chef, I was frequently the only white person working in the kitchen. We worked in heat that would drop weaker people. We were a part of a team. However, what I saw frustrated me. If someone from the front of the house had a party they would invite kitchen staff and we would all go. However, if a black from the kitchen held a party and invited everyone to attend I would once again find myself being the only white in attendance. Even when I, the white guy threw a party only my fellow kitchen workers would attend. It made me feel that I was viewed as barely white.

I try to say that I am not a racist. I do my best to treat all people with the respect that all human beings deserve. When I evaluate at how I’m doing I realize a few things. Yes, there are blacks in my neighborhood. Yes, I go out of my way to engage with them. No, I've have never invited them into my home. Not because I’m a closeted racist, it’s just that I really don’t know them. The only thing I know about them personally is that they’re friendly and they live down the block or in the building next door. When I think about this, I get pissed off – at me.

Growing up there were two things that we could count on, dinner would be served at 6:30 and Walter Cronkite would be on the television on its rolling stand in the corner. There at my family dinner table I learned about the world. What I learned was man is incredibly cruel to his fellow man. Beginning on November 22, 1963 I paid attention because I wanted to know what it was that could bring my father to tears.

By March 1965, I had already seen some pretty horrible things. On the Evening News with Walter Cronkite, I had seen the bodies of black men hanging from trees. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner had been murdered in Mississippi. Bull Connor had already turned his fire hoses on blacks marching for their civil rights. I had borne witness to man’s inhumanity to his fellow man and I was in elementary school.

August of that summer, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even at twelve year old I understood that to whites in the Deep South the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wasn't enough. These goobers needed to have it spelled out for them. I mean if a person’s civil rights were now codified in law why did we have to come back, the next year with a Voting Rights Act saying that voting was a civil right.

In the spring of ’68, the riots that had hit Watts in the summer of 1965 were now in my hometown, of Baltimore Maryland. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dead and the city had exploded. I remember sitting on the stoop listening to the sound of the electricity running through the overhead power lines. I would not experience that kind of eerie quite again until September 11, 2001. During the riot, some of the men in our neighborhood had gone to the basement to retrieve the carbine they had brought home from WWII. Fear was everywhere and as kids we didn't know what was next.

No American should have had to endure what blacks in America had to just to vote. If I’m reading the numbers correctly, voter turnout by race closely mirrors the population. That is to say 74% of voters in 2008 were white and 13 % were black. According to the 2010 Census the breakdown of the population was 73% white (only) and 13% black (only). As someone who skipped Statistics 101. I read this as blacks voting at the same rate as whites. Here’s the fucking kicker – only 36.9 of the voting eligible population bother to go to the polls in 2014.

It’s rigged. You waste your time going to vote. Both parties are exactly the same they just say they’re different. I bet you've heard all of these statements before. Sometimes, it’s even your friends or co-workers that say it. I had one neighbor tell me in 2008 that he would vote for Barack Obama if he thought he could accomplish his goals. I asked him if he wanted those things accomplished and his answer was yes. Then came the kicker – he told me he wished Sarah Palin was on the top of the GOP ticket because she’s the smartest one running. I was fine with him skipping the election. Unfortunately too many FoxNoise viewers do vote.

Voter apathy is a disgrace. Uninformed voters are a danger. Tea Partiers that don’t realize that the Tea Party used to be known as the John Birch Society are a danger. Fred Koch called it the John Birch Society, his sons call it the Tea Party by either name they both attempt to do the same thing – impose biblical law over our constitution and convince their sheep it’s God’s will.

We must do better. People have fought for our right to vote. They died at Lexington & Concord, Ft. McHenry, Gettysburg, Pa. San Juan Hill, The Western Front, Iwo Jima, New York City, Shanksville, Pa. and they died in Birmingham, Al. & Memphis, Tn. They didn't give the last full measure so we could sit on our asses on Election Day and then bitch because they don’t like what THEIR government is doing. President Obama said it best, “The single most powerful word in our democracy is “We.”

Federal MMJ Bill to be Introduced

The following comes Dan Riffle of MPP - this is great news for all of us.

Bipartisan Bill to Be Introduced in U.S. Senate Tuesday Would End Federal Government’s Prohibition on Medical Marijuana

Measure sponsored by Sens. Rand Paul, Corey Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand marks the first time in history that the Senate will consider a proposal to make medical marijuana legal under federal law

* Statement below from Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project *
                                                                   
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday that would end the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana. It will be the first time in history that the Senate considers a proposal to make medical marijuana legal under federal law. 
 
Statement from Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“This is a significant step forward when it comes to reforming marijuana laws at the federal level. The vast majority of Americans support laws that allow seriously ill people to access medical marijuana. Several marijuana policy reform bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives. The introduction of this legislation in the Senate demonstrates just how seriously this issue is being taken on Capitol Hill.


“The bipartisan nature of this proposal reflects the broad public support for resolving the tension between state and federal marijuana laws. This is a proposal that Republicans and Democrats should both be able to get behind. It’s a matter of compassion and justice, states’ rights, public safety, and medical choice. There is no rational reason to maintain laws that prevent doctors from recommending medical marijuana, prohibit seriously ill people from using it, and punishing those who provide it to them.”

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Judicial Proceedings Hearing 3/4/2015 - Three Reform Bills

This past Wednesday Maryland’s Judicial Proceedings heard testimony on not one but three cannabis reform bills. The bills heard were, SB 531 Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015, SB 517 Use and Possession of Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia, and SB 456 Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia – Medical Necessity. As is always the case there is good news and not so good news to be gleaned from the testimony and questions.

First, let me provide the barest of explanation of what each bill is attempting to accomplish. SB 456 attempts to include paraphernalia in the existing affirmative defense established by SB 308 in 2011. It also attempts to extend that affirmative defense to caregivers. SB 517 is similar though this bill attempts to legalize possession of paraphernalia; reaffirm the medical necessity affirmative defense and most importantly remove the 10gm limit established in last year’s decrim bill signed into law by Gov. O’Malley.

The good news- Proponents of the bills outnumbered opponents by a margin greater than 4:1 (21-5). The better news might be the quality of witnesses testifying in favor of the bills. The following organizations all sent representatives to testify:
Ø  ACLU of Maryland
Ø  Maryland Cannabis Industry Association
Ø  Center of Urban Families
Ø  Marijuana Policy Project
Ø  Drug Policy Alliance
Ø  Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
Ø  Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
Ø  Maryland NORML
Ø  Western Maryland NORML
Ø  Maryland State Conference NAACP

The bad news- The same old opponents came to offer the same tired, old and disproven “evidence” for opposing any changes in the current marijuana laws, medical or otherwise. Opponents included one retired police chief, two States Attorneys, SAM and one sobriety counselor whose organization I was unable to hear. Their arguments still sound as if they sat and watched “Reefer Madness” to help them write their testimony.

Some of the highlights – Senators Raskin & Zirkin made great points as they each introduced the bills to be heard that day. Senator Raskin handled the intro for the big one, SB 531 that would make Maryland the next jurisdiction to legalize marijuana for recreational use. He sounded what would become the rallying cry of the day, that being the despite all the proclamations by opponents the sky has not fallen in Colorado or Washington – either the state or DC.

            Sen. Zirkin introduced the other two bills. I wish he had phrased one provision of SB 456 & 517 differently. He could have better explained that the affirmative defense for patients is still in place but his bills would extend that affirmative defense to cover paraphernalia and also cover that person's caregivers. Even some of the aids to other senators & delegates were unclear on how his bills affect our affirmative defense. This has been very important to me personally, as it has provided significant peace of mind about the danger of being arrested.

One major point of contention dealt with the smell of marijuana in a car and whether that alone is cause for a search of the car. Police feel under decriminalization they are losing the right to search merely because they claim to smell weed. The one question I wanted asked was, “Can you personally distinguish between the smell of pot burning and pot still in the baggie?” I think it would have clarified the debate. Under all the laws we are supporting driving while stoned or actively getting high is illegal. However, merely transporting cannabis in your car (provided the amounts are legal) would no longer be a crime.

Another point both sides need to clarify is their definition of “in public.” Lawmakers define it as on the street, in a park, or any other public space. In other words, even after the law changes you won’t be able to light up a joint in the smoking area of Camden Yards. I want to be absolutely certain that “in public” does not include my deck even though I live in an apartment. My goal has all along been the ability to smoke openly my pipe while my wife sips her beer on our deck when she gets home from work.

There were one or two moments that it would have been hard for me not to stand up and cheer (if you’ve never testified – you cannot ever do that). Every time a witnessed urged to the continuation of the prohibition either Sen. Raskin or Sen. Zirkin would ask is it your opinion that alcohol prohibition worked. They all hemmed and hauled as they attempted to answer the question. None of them wanted to say that Prohibition was a success but they were sure that marijuana prohibition should continue.

As I stated before the opposition proudly marched out the same old arguments. The one I hate the most is this idea that cannabis causes schizophrenia. It does not. Schizophrenia is caused by a genetic defect. Furthermore, the idea that it triggers the onset has yet to be proven because the age at which young people begin using cannabis coincides with the age at which schizophrenia onsets.

One of the most irresponsible assertions by an opposing witness was that she knew a teenage girl that went to a party, smoked some weed and had a psychotic break. I find this quite hard to believe. We must understand that the “paranoia” we felt the first few times we used cannabis can be defined as a psychosis. Similarly, when they define cannabis as a hallucinogen, they mean that sensation of colors being more vibrant. Jimmy Buffet once said, I’ve smoked a lot of weed over the years and have yet to hallucinate. Where do I get that stuff? As for the poor young girl who experienced a psychotic break I would be willing to bet someone told her she was smoking pot but since she had no reference she was unaware that her boyfriend had just given her PCP.

Judy Pentz of Maryland NORML passed along a story Ret. Sheriff Norman Stamper likes to tell. I forget which South American nation this occurred in but here’s the gist. Tired of all the brawls breaking out in the stands organizers of a soccer match did not serve alcohol in the stands. However, they invited the fans to partake in the weed they figured they were carrying in anyway. The result of the experiment – not one fight. This goes along with what I and many of my peers commented to their parents during Woodstock. As the news was breaking, many parents were upset by the nudity, sex & drug use being reported. We all told our parents the same thing, put a half a million adults drinking their Jack in one place and it would take 1st Armored Div. to break up the fight that would break out.


Well those are my takeaways from the hearing. I only wish I had been up to coming and testifying myself. The main takeaway I believe is this. Last year law enforcement flooded the hearing room with multiple panels of witnesses. This year their numbers were anemic this is good news. I’m sure you might find other testimony more important. Please watch the hearing for yourself. Here is the link: http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/house/play/154e90ea-8c13-4b8b-b5c9-0c04dc0fa471/?catalog/03e481c7-8a42-4438-a7da-93ff74bdaa4c

Friday, February 27, 2015

America's Wars

Damn, America is involved in a lot of wars. The first war I had to come to grips with was the Vietnam War. It leads to my activism. That wasn't the only war against which I was fighting. The Vietnam Era saw an influx in drug use, not just marijuana but also heroin. In 1970, Pres. Nixon started what he called a "war" on drug use. What many people don't know is that "war on drug use" was aimed at Vietnam vets coming home addicted to heroin. Then Pres. Reagan raised the ante and changed it to a War on Drugs." Oh, how great it would be if this were our only war. It is not. We have in no particular order a "war" on - drugs, terrorism, poverty, the bible, Christmas, and of course a war on liberalism. See our politicians are big on wars, especially the GOP.

Do you know what all of these wars have in common? They began as political rhetoric. From the time President Johnson declared a "war on poverty," our government has used the word war as a synonym for an intense effort. President Johnson wasn't going to order the 101st Airborne Division to begin dropping food & cash all over Appalachia; although considering how often these folks vote against their own interests that might not have been a horrible idea. It meant he wanted an intense effort to end poverty by solving some of the root problems of the poor. Remember, unlike the Bush family or the Kennedy family President Johnson grew up dirt poor. Johnson knew education was the key and focused on improving education in America, the basic teach a man how to fish strategy.

Equally, Nixon was not going to order the "Screaming Eagles" to bomb Harlem or Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1970 because there was a lot of heroin dealing going on there. Richard Nixon's original intention was an intense effort to prevent heroin addiction following our soldiers home from Vietnam.

Today Nixon's views on how to handle our drug problem would make him a leading Democratic voice. Following a study he commissioned Nixon realized that our crime problem was connected to drug addictions that began frequently with marijuana. His advisor who did the research told Nixon that during his research heroin addicts told him if pot were legal, they never would have even tried heroin. He was said to have been considering legalizing marijuana. The day after he expressed that idea four guys got caught breaking into Democratic National Headquarters located in the Watergate complex.

President Carter being a pacifist basically never did get caught up in the rhetoric of declaring a '"War on Something" nor did President Clinton. Then comes President W and our rhetorical wars became real shooting wars.

President Bush's declaration of a war on terrorism has divided us, as I have never witnessed before. In my opinion it brings us to where we are today which is embroiled in either the Tenth Crusade or WW III. In fact, I believe if certain advisor's heads hadn't exploded the first time he used the term "crusade" we be waging a Crusade against Terrorism rather than a war. In fact, he called the war on terrorism a crusade in the days immediately after the September 11th attacks.

Since then, the GOP in an effort to divert attention from their crusade have accused Democrats of waging war on Christmas or a war on religious freedom. To counter that rhetoric the Dems have accused the GOP of waging a war on women and a war on unions. We need to stop the war rhetoric, like adding "gate" to every pseudo scandal; it has been way over used by now.

War is hell and rhetoric is just words. Let’s stop confusing the two. Our intense efforts at curtailing drug addiction, or poverty & homelessness are demonstrations of American values. On the other hand, our war on drugs and terrorism has thrown the world into chaos. The problem is the two are both the ideas of conservative politicians. They also are both failing - dismally.

In reality, the war on drugs has been going on much longer than the 45 years of Nixon's war on drug use. It goes back to 1914 when we made cocaine illegal except in limited medicinal use. One hundred years of throwing addicts in jail has accomplished absolutely NOTHING. Well it did provide jobs to lawyers, cops, & prison guards. Any realistic examination of the results will show the war on drugs to be colossal failure.

While our war on drugs has had thousands of casualties on both sides, the war on terrorism has dwarfed those numbers. More concerning is the possibility of more attacks here at home. It is widely accepted that our treatment of terrorists at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and a variety of black sites around the world has created more terrorists than it has kept off the battlefield. Add to that GOP congressional representatives or senators screaming America is a Christian nation and the terrorists are flocking to Syria & Yemen.

It was a mistake to treat the 9/11 attacks as acts of war rather than a crime. In the lead up to the invasion of Afghanistan, our covert troops had already brought down the Taliban and were hot on the heels of Osama bin Laden. Then we made a big show of invading Afghanistan, which in reality was just W's method to get our military in the Middle East in great numbers so he could make the most destructive mistake of his presidency - the invasion of Iraq. A decision we are paying for everyday the world over.

War is an armed conflict between nations or groups. Nations can engage in war. Criminals can wage war with each other as in the Mafia Wars of the '70's. However, you cannot wage war on a behavior like drug misuse. You can treat the problem with medical interventions or you can arrest people for breaking a law but neither course of action can be considered war.

When Irish terrorists in Northern Ireland were attacking the British police and soldiers England didn't go around screaming Catholics are terrorists trying to take over the world. The same cannot be said of the war rhetoric following 9/11. Suddenly terrorists’ attacks are an attempt to take over the world. While it may be true that the leaders of al Qaida & ISIS may want to rule the world with Sharia Law, the reality is they haven't a chance at succeeding. They don't have a nation to supply them with tanks (they don't even have an air force) as Hitler did yet the GOP likes to tell their followers that ISIS is just like Hitler. Bullshit! ISIS survives on war materials left on the battlefields across the Middle East. Terrorism is not a nation; Terrorism is a tactic.

America's wars are perhaps the biggest misnomers ever. Our wars are in fact intense efforts to correct identified problems. Poverty is an economic condition. Drug misuse is a behavior. Terrorism is a tactic. All of which deserve intense efforts to change. For instance, a better education system can stem poverty by giving people the tools they need to get out of poverty.

Drug abuse or as I prefer drug misuse can be controlled, but not by throwing people in jail. It can be controlled with honest frank education about drugs. Marijuana & alcohol use is controlled by a large number of people. However, meth, heroin, all opiates and cocaine can rarely be controlled and the results are devastating to the addict, his family and society. Jail does nothing to curb this problem but treatment can.

Terrorism is the tactic of the weak. ISIS can't really wage war against the US or Israel for that matter, both nations are far more powerful than their ragtag team of religious perverters. Like poverty and drug misuse, force will never end the problem. Diplomacy will. We need to pressure Saudi Arabia and any other predominantly Muslim nations to join us in attempting to be modern progressive nations. War is hell and not a solution to the ills of society.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Change For Casey's Dream

In December 2006 I began Casey's Dream. I envisioned a webpage where those who have chosen to use cannabis for medicinal purposes could tell their stories. Unfortunately while receiving some touching stories I have always been unhappy about the number of stories sent in. Four years later I announced that anyone else who wanted to be a contributor could be by simply sending me their email address so I could add them to the list of contributors. Again the numbers stayed depressingly low. So today I am announcing another change to Casey's Dream.

Going forward I will try to pen one op-ed a week and post it here. The main change is that I will not be concentrating on cannabis reform. The problems this nation faces are far more than a failed policy towards addiction or the refusal of some to recognize the medical efficacy of cannabis. The solution to those problems does have one thing in common with the struggle for cannabis reform. They can all can be solved through citizens getting involved.

My first foray into blogging was on a site called Democratic Party Builder. No explanation needed for that website. It was there however that I received much encouragement about my views on drug reform. While my views on the need for drug policy reform have never been stronger it is also impossible to separate that one problem from the larger problem of conservative backwards thinking in our legislative bodies.

Each time I post an op-ed I will also announce the post being up on Casey's Dream's Facebook page. One of the hardest thing about being a writer is facing a blank page without any idea of what you're goring to write about. Therefor I invite you to post suggestions at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caseys-Dream/331310040944


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Maryland/NORML 1st Statewide Meeting

Over the weekend I attended the first statewide meeting of Maryland/NORML, First let me thank Judy Pentz for making me feel a bit like a rock star with her enthusiastic acknowledgement of my arrival. It was good to see her again too. I've attended these kinds of meetings in the past. I am much more hopeful this group will succeed where others dispersed.

Judy and her team of VP Kevin Cranford, Communications Chris Hirsch (apologies if I got the spelling wrong) & Secretary Beth Morgan have approached this endeavor with a businesslike model. They've made sure all the hoops have been jumped thru and are now an official 501(c) 3 charity. They are now in the process of organizing county offices. Saturday's meeting was a lot about that.

There was also a special speaker, Leigh Maddox from L.E.A.P. spoke of her journey to working for L.E.A.P. I've heard Leigh testify before she was shall we say a lot looser than when testifying. More accurately she cursed like she was back on the street as a police officer. It was refreshing to hear someone speak like we all really do without any of the faux indignation that might occur in another setting.

Without retelling Leigh's story it is compelling and I'm sure available online somewhere. What was important about what Leigh had to say was we are making real progress, finally. She stressed to need to be vocal and active but most of all vocal. The more people talk about drug reform the more they will find most of us prefer to try something different.

Judy emphasized that now that the paperwork was filed it was time to organize and get active. She too stressed that with public support swinging our way we need to be visible in the community. To that end there will be a Maryland/NORML table at the Fells Point Festival. There was also a call for similar suggestions. Where can we be seen? Where can we engage with others? People need to see marijuana reformers aren't Cheech & Chong or Bill & Ted, we're productive citizens.

There was a real quick rehash of the state of Maryland law with emphasis on the fact that this will not be a regular part of the group's meetings. We all should know the state of the law by now. Now we should be organizing to get people to pressure their legislators both state and federal to reform our drug laws beginning with marijuana.

After a short break we broke up into county and in some cases regional groups.Unfortunately I was only able to hang in there thru group introductions. Despite medication I had fallen the day before and I was hurting. I left my contact info with Beth Morgan and I'll post again when I know more about what Maryland/Norml and the Baltimore County office's (?) plans are.

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