by James Stansberry -
Special to the SGN
First, I must say I did not start out to be an advocate for medical cannabis. Sure, I wanted it legalized, and did some signing of petitions when the matter was being debated in Olympia, shortly after I moved from Chicago to Seattle in the mid-nineties. No, I was happier being clean and sober, after fighting back from a second relapse, also in the mid-nineties. I pretty much intended to do two things: one, leave this world clean and sober; and two, leave this world with my body as intact as possible.
Then, last year I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ: stage 3 breast cancer in my left breast. I cried like a baby when the doctor told me that he'd 'found something,' in his words, 'worrying.' That 'something' turned out to be a large mass that reached all the way on one side of my left breast from my nipple to the chest wall. The recommended course of action, from my then doctor's point of view was the traditional one: cut, radiate, maybe do that again, if it didn't work the first time. I said 'no,' and opted for medical cannabis instead.
Unfortunately, I was to learn, after thinking I was hitting on my cancer hard with one of the newer (and pricier) highly-refined and purified cannabis capsule preparations, that they were NOT the panacea I thought they would be and that the company putting them out was touting them to be.
The cancer wasn't moving. Some new pain bothered me enough to re-consult my naturopath (who, at this time, became my primary doctor, supporting my treatment with medical cannabis). She immediately suggested that, yes, I did need to see my former oncologist to find out if there was cause for alarm. There was. The so-called 'wonder drug' I'd been taking, while partially managing the pain, not only hadn't moved the mass, it looked like the mass was trying to do the one thing none of us wanted: leave the ducts and manifest in other places in my body.
So, with the blessing - no, the concerned and compassionate order from my naturopath, I returned to taking higher doses of the organic, whole-plant-derived, cannabis concentrate I started out with, and was seduced away from because of its very strong (and definitely UN-wanted) psychoactive effects. I also used 'Old Toby,' a glycerin-based tincture using the strain of cannabis that gives it its name.
Then came the whole mess of the Liquor Control Board 'making recommendations' - read: scaring a lot of weak-kneed politicians into launching horrible legislation, including our own Governor Jay Inslee, who was completely prepared to go with these 'recommendations,' which would have thrown people like me under a corporate, Big Pharma bus. So I joined the patient's rights movement - though there's much room for improvement in a young movement still having the growing pains of trying to serve the needs of the patients who first brought ANY legislation about cannabis to the vote thirteen years ago.
Unfortunately, as it currently stands, there is NO legislation, as nothing was done after much bitter battling and some just plain idiocy on the part of certain people in the cannabis movement. This means, since cannabis is still illegal federally, patients like me can still be thrown into federal prison for trying to heal our bodies in ways that leave us integral and whole. Oh, and in prison, I'd not be allowed my doses of cannabis, or any 'medibles,' so yes, my cancer would get worse, and it's possible this disease would then take me, like it took my mother and grandmother.
What we need now is to stop fighting and start drafting something that works for patients, so that we can take our medicine, fight our diseases and live our lives - long, healthy, productive lives, being partners to our partners, friends and community members who give back and help make change possible. We are not 'cash crops' to be 'harvested' when the state finds itself broke from all the wrong-headed decisions made from all those petitions from a certain Tim Eyman. And, having just been to a dispensary that mostly seemed to focus on making as much money as possible from folks who just want to get high, I know that's NOT where I will be finding medicine for my cancer, if the Liquor Control Board gets it's way and leave us with only recreational marijuana dispensaries available.
To my mind, it's just common sense, to legalize a plant that clearly has medicinal properties, and has been researched and proven to be just that - medicine. It's also time to stop criminalizing patients like me, and it's time to do more research, not close down the true medical dispensaries that are effectively doing that research, one dollar at a time, one patient at a time, on a daily basis. My body is a laboratory these days, and the proof of how cannabis does work is shown every time I feel the mass and it's just that much smaller. I have become much more the revolutionary since the diagnosis, determined not to leave this planet until I see the rights of patients put before profit. I will not rest until not one patient still resides in prison on a marijuana charge and I will not stop fighting this cancer. I intend to win both battles, and with more folks writing their elected officials urging better cannabis legislation and legalization, I believe I will.
(Since writing this piece, there is both good news and troubling news. The good news is my mass has shrunk enough that both my naturopath and my partner are celebrating, as it does look like I'm winning my battle, and winning it with medical cannabis, as I had intended. The troubling news is, since writing this, my partner has been diagnosed with an inguinal hernia and is also using medical cannabis for pain relief, and has had to be transferred to a different position at work. Not so troubling, you think, until you realize ... MEDICAL CANNABIS IS STILL ILLEGAL AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL ... meaning, if they take it into their heads, his employer could fire him, thus cutting off our only source of income, thus making my battle that much harder. So, you can see the practical need for legalizing cannabis. People like us can still suffer jail time, even as Washington state's and Colorado's recreational users are living it up. What can you do? Write you elected representatives, invite a patient to talk on your radio program, so we can get the message out there, and get to know the facts about medical cannabis, so you can be a more effective advocate. The time is now, before more lives are lost, or more people lose homes, jobs, or lives.)
You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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