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Anonymous Iowan: “It was the first time in years that I was completely free from pain.”

I’m an Iowan, and I use cannabis as a medicine.

I’ve led a fairly normal, small town Iowa middle class life. My parents were Republican small business owners that went to church every Sunday. I was raised to be a responsible, ethical, hardworking Christian young man. I was a straight A student all throughout my schooling, I was involved in Talented and Gifted from grade school through high school. I was in debate throughout high school, went to the state competition several times, even as a freshman. I’ve had a job since I was legally able to work, paid my own way all throughout my teens and my adult life. I hold two technology related degrees. I’ve worked hard, and always tried to be an honorable man, no matter what life has thrown at me. I am one of many examples of the spirit that runs through all of us in this great state of ours. The last few years of my life, however, have thrown some pretty serious medical conditions my way, and I find myself in a very difficult struggle with my health, and with the laws in our state. I am an Iowan, and I use cannabis, but I am not a criminal.

Starting three years ago, my wife began having back problems. She ended up losing her job, going through several surgeries, and ending up on disability. During this time, I was working full time at my first job after graduating from college. I was working in my chosen field that I had worked hard to get into, and things were going pretty good! However, as time progressed, and my wife became sicker and sicker, and eventually had her employment end, I began working more and more, taking every possible shift I could at work, and grabbing a part time job at a fast food restaurant as well. I was making it though, we still had our house, we still had our cars, we still had our life. It was precarious, but it was happening. Little did I realize just how much I was burning the proverbial candle at both ends. As this happened, I forgot the most important thing, and that’s that you have to take care of yourself, if you want to take care of anyone else. I ate horribly, I slept horribly, and that on top of all the stress took its toll. I worked until it was physically impossible to work. My feet and hands and legs began to hurt constantly, no matter what I would do. My feet would hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep until I was so exhausted I couldn’t stay awake any longer. I started having trouble focusing, staying awake at work. My legs would lock up on me and I’d fall over at work and around the house. I slipped and fell on the ice in the parking lot where I worked and wrecked my knee. I was out driving on a service call and turned in front of another car on a highway and totaled both vehicles and ruined my other knee because my head wasn’t functioning right from my blood glucose being way off. I never took the time off to see a doctor, and as a result, when I finally did, I found out I was diabetic, and suffering from diabetic neuropathy in my hands, feet, and legs, and I had cartilage damage in both knees, as well as early onset arthritis in my knees and hands. Shortly thereafter, I lost my job, we lost our house, we lost our cars, we lost everything. We’ve only survived because of support from family and friends, at least until my wife got her disability approved. We now live in a small apartment, and we’re back to a fairly normal life now, but we certainly aren’t wealthy, or even above the poverty line. It is what it is. I’m also applying for disability. This is the situation we live in.

Every day of our lives, my wife and I deal with chronic pain. She suffers from numerous degenerating disks, arthritis, and severe scarring of her spinal cord and spinal nerves. Her pain never goes away, and it never will. She has had two spinal fusions, and is looking at more in the future. She is one of the strongest persons I have ever met, one of the most hardworking, kind, and generous persons as well. She was raised similarly to me, the average small town Iowa girl. I suffer so badly from the pain in my feet and legs alone that I can hardly stand or walk. The arthritis is pretty damn miserable too. Until you have experienced just how badly things can go wrong with your body, its really quite hard to explain to anyone just how difficult it is to live with chronic severe pain, so I’m really not even going to try here. I would, however, like for you to understand just how limited and dangerous the options available to people who have permanent damage to find relief for the lifelong problems they face.

Since being diagnosed with our health problems, the only solutions offered to us have been prescription narcotics. This is the only thing that any of the doctors will give you. They do this not because they don’t care, but because it is the only effective solution that they can offer. This is not to say that I think prescription painkillers are evil or bad, because believe me, I would have killed myself a long time ago were it not for the relief that they provide. However, the risks involved with long term prescription narcotic use are significant. The lists of side effects and dangers are miles long, and everyone knows that they are addictive, toxic substances that are not healthy for long term use! These are our only choice under the law as it is today. It’s either take them, and deal with it, or don’t take them and suffer for the rest of your life. That is what a person with severe chronic pain faces. That’s what cancer patients face. It’s the same thing that depression, arthritis, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, and numerous other sufferers of afflicitons that could be treated effectively with cannabis face. Take your pills, prescriptions no matter what they cost, how bad the side effects are, or how much damage they can do, or what the risks are. You don’t have a choice, unless you want to be a criminal. Unless you want to risk your life, your job, and your famliy, your freedom to use an effective, safe, cheap, versatile, incredible medicine. The current prohibition of cannabis in Iowa is, de facto, denying patients an effective medicine that could help many, many people that suffer from severe health issues all across our state. This goes beyond just a simple legal issue; we have a moral and ethical obligation to legalize medicinal cannabis in Iowa. We are a state of progressive minded, but conservatively practical, passionate, and compassionate people, and we have a right to make sure that we take care of our own, and that our friends, family, and neighbors don’t have to live lives full of suffering and misery.

In an effort to alleviate my symptoms that prescription narcotics only partially masked, and to find an alternative to the legal, but dangerous drugs that I have been prescribed, I did what was once unthinkable to me. I turned to cannabis. At first, when I even thought about trying it, I was horrified with myself, I was completely terrified of the prospect of violating laws with such severe consequences. After trying it for the very first time, I was completely and utterly amazed. That day, was an absolutely wonderful day. It was the first time in years that I was completely free from pain. I could get up and move, I could walk again like a normal human being. My knees and hands were no longer stiff and nearly crippled. My blood sugars settled down. I felt good. I had forgotten what it felt like after so much time being in complete misery every waking moment of my life. At once I was freed, and yet incredibly burdened. This was something wonderful. This was something incredible. This was something incredibly illegal. I felt like a person again, but the fact was, for making my life better, I was a criminal. I didn’t hurt anybody. I didn’t ruin anyone’s life. I sure didn’t feel like a criminal. There it was though, looming over it all. I was, and still am a little more than unimpressed by the fact that this most wonderful thing that had come into my life, had the very real potential to completely ruin my life more than it already was. My wife at first was completely and totally against the idea, and it was definitely a point of contention between us, until she began to notice the incredible relief that it brought me, and one day, she asked me to join. Guess what? Same results. The woman that an hour earlier needed a walker to get around our house was singing and dancing in the kitchen and cooking a meal. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. After watching her suffer and decline for so long, after watching the life fade away inside her (and seeing the same in my reflection in the mirror), here she was, the woman I loved, back again after being gone for so long. Nobody can tell me that cannabis is illegal for any sane reason after seeing this, and feeling it in myself.

In 2010, the Iowa Board of Pharmacists recommended to our state government that we should implement a medical cannabis system in the state of Iowa. This recommendation was completely and totally ignored by our “representatives”. The time has come for the will of the people to be heard on this issue, and we need to be loud enough that they can’t ignore us. 20 other states have recognized the necessity of providing medical cannabis to their residents, even Washington D.C. Has legalized cannabis for medicinal use. We can no longer sit back and allow the whims of our politicians to stifle progress. We have a responsibility to offer a safe, natural, and effective alternative medicine to those who need it and could benefit greatly from it. Allowing such a valuable medicine to remain illegal under prohibition laws is to me, a horrible violation of the rights of a person to use an effective and safe medicine. Iowa has always been a state that looks forward, but doesn’t forget the values of the past. I was raised to make sure nobody gets left behind, you help your friends, family, and neighbors. We have a responsibility to make every option available for our fellow Iowans in need. Right now, we have medical cannabis bills waiting in the Iowa Legislature. I urge you all to write, call, email, and contact your representatives and let them now how you feel about medical cannabis. The will of the people must be heard before it can ever be made law. It’s time to be the squeakiest wheel. We can’t let them ignore or deny this issue any longer if we want things to change.

I’m an Iowan. I use cannabis as a medicine. I am not a criminal.

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