Later this year, citizens of my home state of Michigan — which has already legalized medicinal cannabis — will vote on whether or not to legalize cannabis for ‘recreational' use. It’s great news that the Great Lake State may soon join California, Colorado and six other states in allowing adults to exercise their cannabis rights. Sadly, it’s a few decades too late to save my brother, or to help my mom (I’ll explain shortly.)
We all have our own reasons for working to defeat federal cannabis prohibition. As a nation we are taking small steps towards that, but it’s by no means a done deal. Jeff Sessions and the Republican Congress are not going to allow federal legalization on their watch. Meanwhile, the drive to full national cannabis legalization picks up steam with each state that makes it legal. Each of us must do what we can to maintain the positive momentum.
- Voting for candidates who support sane cannabis policies, including:
- Removing cannabis from the federal schedule of dangerous narcotics
- Making it easier to conduct cannabis research and clinical trials
- Working to extend amnesty to people incarcerated for cannabis-related violations
- Supporting organizations who have been fighting this fight for a long time, like NORML and Americans for Safe Access, and newer advocates, like the Veterans Cannabis Coalition
- Continuing to educate and advocate in our communities, to remove the lingering stigma of cannabis use
What changed my mind on cannabis
I have to confess, I wasn't always pro-cannabis. Once I entered the workforce, I pretty much forgot about weed. There was work, and relationships, running and beer. I figured cannabis was for college kids and I no longer was one. During this time, about 25 years ago, my younger brother Michael died from complications of epilepsy. The medications they gave Mike to control his seizures (Dilantin, Tegretol) were toxic, and ineffective. As doctors increased his dosage, his body got weaker. On Christmas Day in 1991, he went into a seizure and didn’t come out.
Fast forward about 20 years: I was doing some freelance copywriting for a company selling CBD oil, and I saw some videos of infants suffering from Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. It's hard to watch an infant suffer like that. But then something amazing happened. When given CBD oil, the infants showed fewer seizures and marked improvement. It was miraculous, and it opened by eyes to the fact that cannabis is not just about slackers getting stoned. It's a legitimate, versatile medicine with real therapeutic value. In many ways, it can enable people with previously hopeless conditions to survive and thrive.
There’s now a lot of research that shows that CBD and cannabis with THC — non-toxic medicines that have never killed anyone — can help control epileptic seizures. Instead of a decades-long state-run campaign of propaganda and prohibition, if we had a sane cannabis policy in this country, I believe there's a good chance that Mike might have found relief with non-toxic, organic cannabis, and he might still be alive today.
We need humane cannabis laws
Something else has strengthened my conviction: My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, another intractable condition with no known cure, but for which cannabis has shown to be a promising treatment. Research done at the Salk Institute has shown that cannabis fights the accumulation of beta amyloid plaque in the brain — one of the markers of Alzheimer's. There's anecdotal evidence that cannabis helps reduce the agitation and confusion that can come with Alzheimer's.
Of course, nursing homes do not allow cannabis to be administered to patients, who instead receive daily cocktails of pharmaceutical uppers and downers. These drugs may or may not reduce suffering, but you can bet they are funding some incredible salaries for pharma company execs and their lobbyists. Meanwhile, my mom and millions of others with this horrible disease are denied a legitimate medicine that could safely and effectively reduce their suffering.
Prohibition has resulted in immeasurable suffering, sadness and rage
We need more research and clinical trials; we need to erase the stigma of cannabis use and move forward with a safe and effective medicine. Please join the fight. The life you save may be one that's close to you — or your own.