Medical Marijuana Legislation: Why it Should Matter to You

The Controversial Medical Marijuana Topic
Medical Marijuana continues to rear its head in the political arena. It’s an emotionally charged issue on both sides, and among some people, “them’s fightin’ words”. Of course, there are also the people who don’t seem to really care one way or the other. The ones who figure it doesn’t affect them, so why should they waste time thinking about it? Maybe you’re one of them.

Pay Attention, Big Brother is Talking
Something that fascinates me is that many of the people most vehemently opposed to it have no experience with a chronic or terminal illness, or marijuana. They often think they have all the facts about marijuana, but what they usually have is something from the government’s anti-marijuana propaganda.

I am a leukemia survivor who did two years of chemotherapy as a medical marijuana practitioner. I’m not looking to debate or argue, just to share my experience in hopes that people might pause to reconsider their stance, maybe even change their minds.

Come Walk in My Shoes?
Leukemia is cancer of the blood. In addition to the chemotherapy, I also had nearly three weeks of brain radiation. There are no words to adequately express how it felt. I had no idea a human being could be so miserable. Once, I vomited for nearly six hours. Of course, I emptied out quickly and most of that time was spent dry heaving. Unless you have experienced this, you don’t know how bad it hurts. I was gulping water between heaves, hoping that having something to bring up might ease the pain. It didn’t.

Brain radiation sucks all your strength. By the end of the treatments, I wasn’t able to be on my feet and moving more than an hour a day. And that’s a total of the five minutes here and five minutes there involved in getting to the next radiation treatment, getting water, and getting to the restroom.

Chemotherapy is an “umbrella” word that covers a wide variety of anti-cancer medications. Depending on the medication, chemo may be administered orally (through the mouth), intravenously (through the vein), intrathecally (through the spine, to make sure it gets to your brain), subcutaneously (injected into the skin), and in a few situations, as a topical (on the surface of the skin) cream.

You have no idea how your body will react and it can be different each time. The methotrexate that made you swell up and vomit for six hours the last time you took it, might just give you seizures today. In fact, why don’t we take a look at some of the side effects for methotrexate?

� Thinned or brittle hair
� Loss of appetite or weight
� Mouth blisters
� Fatigue
� Painful urination
� Red urine
� Black, tarry stools
� Unusual bleeding or bruising
� Congestion
� Fever
� Dizziness
� Chills
� Shortness of breath
� Sore throat
� Swelling of the feet or ankles
� Vomiting
� Pain in the joints
� Seizures
� Severe skin rash
� Dry cough
� Diarrhea
� Nausea
� Stomach pain
� Weakness
� Yellowness of skin or eyes
� Enlargement of the lymph nodes
� Decreased number of blood cells in the bone marrow
� Cancerous Lymphomas
� Severe damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and gastrointestinal tract (sometimes fatal)

If I may be so bold as to quote myself from another article I wrote on this topic:

“I think they should just make a generic label for chemo meds, something like the warning on cigarette packages: A warning from the Surgeon General: We have no idea what the hell will happen to you when you take these pills. Best wishes and good luck.”

One of the most common arguments against medical use of marijuana is the “potential side effects”. That seems kind of a joke next to the side effects from chemotherapy. I suppose it’s because chemotherapy is legal. Does that make sense to you?

What are the side effects of marijuana anyway?

1. Drowsiness/sleepiness
Trust me, with the insomnia induced from brain radiation, chemotherapy drugs, and the stress of wondering if you’ll survive the chemo, never mind the cancer, you will come to appreciate the drowsiness it offers.

2. Temporary problems with short-term memory
“Short-term memory? What’s that?” asked the woman who had her brain microwaved for three weeks. Someone did suggest to me that I drown my miseries in alcohol, but the more I thought about it, the less sense it made.

With marijuana, you sometimes forget what you went to the other room to grab. With alcohol, you sometimes forget where you live, what color car you own and where you left it, and that you are married.

3. Increased appetite
Nausea and loss of appetite are two of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. In addition to the increased appetite, marijuana controls nausea. It’s a double whammy bonus that can make the critical difference in how your treatment goes. If you don’t eat, you have no strength, if you force yourself to eat but then throw it up, you still have no strength.

This may very well be the greatest benefit of marijuana during chemotherapy. You need to be taking in enough calories for your body to do its normal functions, to fight the cancer, and to perpetually heal itself from the side effects of the chemotherapy. It’s a downhill domino effect, unless you can find a way to hold down food. Marijuana provides that way.

4. A calming effect
Well, you’re in the hospital, on your deathbed, putting toxic waste in your body to fight the cancer that’s trying to kill you. Your whole life is on hold, your kids are in someone else’s hands, you are too weak to even move yourself, and the crazy treatments that you are taking are just as likely (or more likely) to kill you than the cancer is. What’s there to be freaked out about?

Sure, I could have asked for a Valium or something, but why should I have to take another laboratory-created chemical pill when I can use a natural herb that addresses not only the nerve issues, but most of the other side effects as well? Before the horrible Leukemia adventure, I didn’t even take aspirin.

In the final analysis, isn’t it my body? Shouldn’t I have the right to choose what I want to put in it? How I want to cope with my own personal pain? Why should a natural herbal choice cause so much commotion? Does anyone lobby against the herbal teas that claim to put you to sleep?

More Pot Propaganda
Right about now conventional anti-marijuana wisdom will step up to say that it’s not regulated, and therefore I may possibly harm myself with an overdose. No person in history has ever died of a marijuana overdose. Not one. You can’t kill yourself with marijuana, even if you try really, really hard. The most that will happen to you is that you’ll fall asleep after eating one more cookie that you didn’t really need.

It’s not like alcohol and the often fatal alcohol-poisoning that comes from legally overdosing on that at the local bar. Of course, not all alcohol overdose ends in death for the drinker, there are also all those cases of the ones who make it out of the bar and onto the road, where they cross over the double line and kill innocent people who on their way home from the grocery store.

Smoking is Bad for You!
This is a true statement. But it should be noted that tobacco cigarettes are far more dangerous than marijuana cigarettes, have no medicinal value whatsoever, on the contrary, they are responsible directly or indirectly for the majority of deaths in the United States, yet they are completely legal. But that’s a conversation for another day.

It is not necessary to smoke marijuana to reap its benefits. Marijuana is an herb, and like most other herbs that you have ever heard of, it’s edible. There are lots of marijuana recipes out there, but people seem to be familiar with the marijuana brownie. Those work, and work well.

I have a friend who was fading away from lung cancer. He was ready to give up, tired of living weak and defeated. He had heard about marijuana helping with chemo, but didn’t know there was a way around smoking it. His wife learned how to make marijuana cookies and everything turned around. He experienced the appetite increase, ate better than he had in months, and got stronger everyday. And he felt a lot better. These positive changes encouraged him to keep fighting; suddenly the battle didn’t seem quite over. Last time I saw him, he looked more like a triathlete than a cancer patient.

It’s Against the Law!
This is also a true statement; it is indeed against federal law to use marijuana for any purpose at all, including medical. At one point in time, it was against the law for a woman or person of color to vote, or for a person with a dark skin to drink from the same water fountain as a person with fair skin. Just because a law is in place, does not mean it is a just law.

Before the prohibition, there was no law against alcohol. Then the prohibition became a law. Then after organized crime found their place in the world-thanks to the prohibition, the prohibition law was repealed. Laws can be changed, and it is obvious that many should be.

Why Should You Care?
When discussing the legalities of marijuana as medicine, it is important to remember that we are not talking about some abstract legislation that affects people who want a permit to go duck hunting in their bare feet on volcano peaks. We are talking about the government telling you what you can and cannot do to deal with the potentially fatal illness that you are dealing with. We are talking about the government wanting to lock sick people in jail for wanting relief from their sufferings. We are talking about the government threatening to arrest and jail your doctor if he suggests that marijuana, an herb (like chamomile) that you can grow for free (pharmaceutical companies don’t like that) in your backyard, might help you to feel better.

Maybe you are still thinking, so what? It’s not my problem, I don’t have cancer. It’s very easy to be apathetic about something that you don’t think affects you, but statistics say that one in three people will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. That’s a big percentage of the population.

If you are one of the lucky ones who fall in the other two-thirds, consider the fact that you will definitely be the spouse, child, sibling, parent, other family member, co-worker, or friend of a cancer patient. Sometimes I think it might be worse to have to watch someone you love suffer.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not asking anyone to mandate that every sick person use marijuana. I’m not asking you to take marijuana. All I’m saying is that when it’s you or someone you love going through it, you are going to want all options open. It’s all about options and personal choice. It’s about the government not poking their nose in your medical records and harassing you while you are dying.

So it is about you. And you. And you. And me. We’re all in this together. And we’ve only covered the benefits for chemotherapy patients. We haven’t even got a chance to hear from all the others. I’ll have to step down off my soapbox now and clear the way for one of them. I know what I’ve heard, but I haven’t had glaucoma, or anorexia, orâÂ?¦

If you’re one of those people who feel that I ought to be in jail for surviving leukemia with a little herbal assistance, please think about your position. Don’t wait until it’s too late to see that the grass really is greener on the other side. The side that cares about your right to dignity, relief, and freedom while you are ill. No one should have to fight cancer and their own government at the same time.

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