Activism

Guest Post: My Medical Marijuana Odyssey

medical-marijuana-rx

The following essay was written by a good friend of mine, an anonymous patient on the Medical Marijuana Registry

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As many people know, states around the US are allowing the use of marijuana to treat chronic pain or otherwise incapacitating illnesses and disabilities (with the exception of Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska who have simply legalized marijuana altogether.) This, however, is not a piece about the legalization of marijuana, though I do support that for various reasons. This piece is about what is like to be a patient on a medical marijuana registry.

When I was first diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder, I was devastated. I remember going to the pharmacy to pick up my new life-style-in-a-bottle. And, man, was it a big bottle. It was the length of my forearm, and it had “refill as needed” written on the side. I sat in my car and I cried. I was not looking forward to shoving 9 of these down my throat every day (3 morning, noon, and night.) On top of that, I had steroids, pain killers, and a host of other scheduled drugs. I had cases of pill packs with labels so I didn’t forgot to take what and when and I was taking up to 17 pills per seating. I got really good at just swallowing a handful of them with a big gulp of water. Hooray for new talents right? I was on so many pills my birth control stopped working, leading to an accidental pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage (as one of the drugs killed basically anything trying to live inside of me. Sort of thankfully, I was in no shape to carry a child. Let alone care for one and raise it. I could barely get out of bed at this point.)

Eventually, I had to stop taking the original medication, and thus began the Pharmaceutical Gauntlet of “what won’t I have a reaction to?” I went on immunosupressors (6MP’s and 5ASA’s) and I also did a stint of chemotherapy treatments to try and quash my ever-raging immune system. I was allergic or had a reaction to all of it. Every 6 weeks the chemo made me stop breathing. For those that have never experienced chemotherapy drips, you have to start slow and over the course of the 4 or so hours they speed up the drip. For me, they could not speed the drip because I would stop breathing every time. I have a permanent bruise on my arm where a nurse who wanted to go home ripped the IV out of my arm because my treatment was “taking too long.” (I filed a complaint against her and showed my specialist, but who knows who else she treated so poorly.) I had to have a family member or friend sit with me, and take time out of their lives to watch me struggle to breathe every month. It was not a good experience. Eventually I stopped going.

I tried anti-nausea medications that have, for the most part, left me infertile.

During this time, the Medical Marijuana Registry was created, and I asked my doctor if this was something I could have. I never smoked in high school (really, I waited until I graduated because I didn’t want to hurt my chances at school etc…) But during my chemotherapy treatments it really helped with the pain and nausea. (My disorders also give me constant nausea, which is what the anti-nausea meds were for.)

I was informed that, according to laws, I had to try other drugs that were specific to my symptoms, and they had to not work for me, or cause me harm for me to be allowed to move to the next step. Which was Marinol (the synthetic version of Delta-9 THC, which is the most active chemical in marijuana.) 

After (many) more trips to the Emergency Department at the local hospital I was finally allowed to try Marinol. Which also doesn’t work. I haven’t met anyone that said it does what it is supposed to. That’s not to say it doesn’t work for some; if it works for you, that’s great and I’m glad you found something that gives you relief.

After all of this, I was allowed to apply for my patient license, and be put on the registry. Now, while I understand that marijuana is considered a controlled substance by the federal government, I can’t say I agree with listing the names of patients on an easily accessible list. I am not very worried about the federal government coming down on the sick and infirmed, but I worry for our safety and privacy. I worry about housing and employment discrimination. Also, in my state, the registry is run by the Department of Public Safety. This has bothered me from the beginning. I feel that this contributes to the negative stereotypes that marijuana and/or marijuana patients are somehow endangering the public. More so than say, alcohol? Or tobacco? There have been literally no deaths attributed to the use of marijuana. In my research I found one secondary death, and this was someone who died because they believed their abilities were more than what they were (they could not, in fact, fly). Direct deaths are things like, cirrhosis of the liver or lung cancer, directly caused by the ingested chemical. 

Anyway, the application process goes like this:

1. Get really sick
2. Take a bunch of medicines that make you ill to prove that you can’t take an insurance backed medication, because choosing your own health care plan with your trusted physician is a big no-no for some reason.
3. Download, print, complete, and mail all of the parts of the application (for someone with a condition, simply going to the store to get lunch can be a drain, so running all over town to obtain the things you need is that much more of a burden). These things include:

A meeting with your “trusted physician with which you have a relationship”

Getting to the office

Taking time out of your day, maybe you work, maybe you are just exhausted (I do not blame the doctor’s they are just doing what they are supposed to)

Get the papers notarized (luckily where I live medical papers are freely notarized, I am not sure about other states)

Take passport style photos (when I first signed up you had to mail in actual DVD’s but now you can send them .jpgs which is extremely handy)

Pay a fee for both your caregiver and yourself

Mail everything out, certified

(PS almost all of these steps cost something, which puts more pressure on those who are ill and can’t work.)

4. Hopefully get your cards (I did.)

5. Whether you grow or use a dispensary (in my state there are only a few) you have to go to the dispensary and get your clones (plants) or have a consultation. Here the appointments are a month or more out, since there are only a few. This means if you run out of medicine you can’t just go to the place and get more, you have to wait it out; wait out your pain, your nausea, your lack of appetite, your lack of sleep.

6. Get your medicine. Finally, you can feel like a halfway decent human being for the first time in months. The strains at the dispensaries are bred to help with specific ailments. It isn’t just “getting high” and loafing around the house. A recent state poll showed most people use it before bed, or before meals (which, if you have nausea or a dampened appetite makes a lot of sense.)

***

As a patient, I have to guard myself against discrimination. I had one doctor that wouldn’t even prescribe me the marinol because he felt that the pharmacists treated his patients too poorly after filling that prescription (To be clear, I have a bunch of doctors. I didn’t doctor-hop until I found one that would give me drugs, I just asked my GP how they felt and the basically said “fuck those pharmacists”).

I am sure I am forgetting something, but I hope this gives people a little insight into what it is like to be someone with a chronic (and at times debilitating illness.) Living with it daily, and all we ask is for some respite without being judged or harassed.

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Civil rights

Baltimore is Burning

Freddie Gray Protest in Baltimore

Baltimore is burning, but not because of the fires set by a few protesters. It is on fire with the passion and rage of the people, who have had enough of a gestapo police force that re-enforces the unequal, bigoted, exploitative status quo. Baltimore, Ferguson, New York, the police torture in Chicago, the police state in Oakland, the lynching of black men by the police and by vigilante minded white men. CNN b**ches and moans about the burning of a CVS and the cutting of a hose as though this is some sign of the collapse of Western Christian society, but the murder, by having his spine severed in custody, of a young black man by the police is cast in a moral shade of grey. Freddie Grey is just a new name on a long list of black men terrorized and murdered by mob justice, vigilantism, and police authority. The bodies of black men are considered weapons, are seen as dangerous, a threat. The black mind is dismissed as cultish, brutish, without thought or nuance, by pigs in blue who barely understand the Constitution they swear to uphold. The intelligence and wisdom, the genius, of an entire people is dismissed because of skin hue, and a history that white hands and white minds set in motion.

Baltimore is burning, but the fires were set 400 years ago when the first white man dragged the first black man in chains from HMS White Lion. The flames were stoked by 250 more years of chattel slavery, rape, torture, white supremacy and greed. The nation that was created “by the people, for the people” was actually an empire forged “by the slave, for the rich and white”, a fact acknowledged and enshrined in the Constitution of this country. The moral cowardice, and avarice, of our Founders extended the holocaust of American slavery for another hundred years. The craven political whims of the post-civil war generation helped to extend the terror of white supremacy long after slavery was officially abolished. Rights were issued in name only, while in fact black bodies found themselves re-categorized from property to vermin, and this in a nation that was BUILT by black bodies. The entire history of the United States has been one long, ongoing larceny perpetrated by whites against people any color but white, any gender but male.

Baltimore is burning, but the powers that be, and their pet media, do not weep for the people, do not strive to sooth their pain. They instead seek to protect property, to preserve the same order that is nothing but a boot on the necks of the black people of Baltimore, of the US. The media act as those peace and calm have been disrupted. The people of Baltimore, especially the people of color, know that there was never any peace to interrupt, there never has been. Every day another insult to dignity, every interaction with the capitalist owned government and with their police army another punch in the gut, a reminder that people of color indeed have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect” (a reminder from on high, straight from the mouth of one of the members of our sainted Supreme Court). White eyes watch black bodies act out in rage, desperation, pathos and righteous fury, and the only question on their lips is “what do those people have to complain about?”. “They” destroy “their” own neighborhoods, an unwitting admission by white citizens of the continuing presence and reality of Jim Crow in our cities, towns, and villages. What the law now condemns the culture denies, a reality of pain and hate and repression that is justified because “we” gave “them” what “they” wanted back in the 60’s…as though dignity and respect and justice were something whites must bestow upon blacks, a belated gift that arrived late but “just in time” to be a salve for white liberal guilt. Baltimore is burning, but is the hearts and minds and souls of the people that are on fire now.

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2nd Amendment

American Violence: God, Guns, and Gore

gun control

I saw this story today on one of my favorite news sites http://www.rawstory.com/2015/04/fake-georgia-cop-yells-fcking-nrs-pulls-shotgun-on-skateboarders-for-being-in-the-street/ 

I could not help but thing…How, HOW is it legal to buy a Kalashnikov in this country? So because some criminal could “theoretically” have “any” weapon, we should be allowed to buy any weapon to “protect” ourselves? Theoretically, a criminal (who could be ANYONE…gun nuts act as though criminals have a certain physical trait that shows who they are…oh, wait…) could get their hands on any sort of weapon. Should we be allowed to by a tank or a anti-tank weapon? Where does the insanity end? The article really captures the key themes of US worship of guns and violence: racialized attitudes about “protecting property” and self-defense, gun fetishization, a macho attitude and delusions of authority. These themes come up again and again and again but STILL gun “rights” advocates try to divorce the social ills that plague US society from the US obsession with firearms and with crime. It has gotten to the point where I cannot even have a discussion about guns IN SCHOOLS without being called a “gun grabbing fascist” or a gay/sexist slur (it seems to be assumed by ammo-sexuals that one who does not believe in the power of the gun is by default a gay man or a woman). There also seems to be a real religious, especially Christian, obsession with arming oneself against the threat that is the “other” in the world. The Conservative Christian mind in this nation is a mind that is always fearful. It is an issue I am working on in my writing lately…it is a real cause that I am fascinated in and devoted to.

We to make the case, as a civil society, that guns are not the answer to all of our problems and that unlimited gun ownership is NOT a right, it never has been. It is a PRIVILAGE and can be taken away or restricted if you show yourself to be a danger to your family or your community. Even in TEXAS of all places Dallas County is finally going to start confiscating the guns of people convicted of domestic violence. This is also a Federal statute, but many states do not have enforceable laws on the books that protect people from domestic gun violence. We are always told that a gun is “just a tool”, as though this is some sort of argument AGAINST restrictions or of understanding gun violence as a social disease. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics guns were responsible for the deaths of more than half of all women killed by their partners between 2001 and 2012. So guns are used as the weapon of choice for those who terrorize their partners. That should give unlimited gun rights activists pause.

More education and dialogue is needed on the issue of human violence and obsession with “security” and “purity”. If you want to understand human violence, obsession with “rights” and “liberties”, and mythic tendencies, I suggest reading the books Sapiens and Blood and Soil. Two of the best books I have ever read. Both talk about what makes human beings tick as an animal, what causes them to seek out violent solutions to complex problems and, in the latter especially, how societies and groups go about the ugly business of doing and justifying violence. I worry that a genocidal sort of fury may be coming from the Right in this country…so much misguided fear and hate directed towards immigrants (this obsession with “legality” is just a new of articulating the “purity” aspects of xenophobic nationalism that existed in the past regarding immigrants), towards LGBT people, towards atheists, towards Muslims. When the majority group, Christians, feels as thought IT is the one being persecuted, they start getting paranoid, and violent, and start arming themselves and convincing themselves that the “others”, “Those People” and “their culture” are to blame and that something needs to be done about it for the good of the nation. That is how genocide happens, that is how you get armed racist bands in the streets, and how you get Muslims being herded into pens…I am trying to be more aware of the hate and fear in this country. The gun/2nd Amendent cult obsession and the persecution complex of conservative christians worry me the most

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Politics

My (FAR too early) 2016 Presidential Election Prediction

An accurate depiction of what the 2016 election will look like

An accurate depiction of what the 2016 election will look like

Yes. I will predict the results! I am that omniscient! I AM YOUR POLITICAL GOD—Never mind. Here are my predictions based on my near constant observation of politics for the past, um, 18 years (I was a weird 10 year old what can I say…autism is a hell of a drug). If they are not true then, well, then, I don’t know, Mitt Romney ends up winning it in a landslide. KARMA…or something. Rmoney for all!

Anyway. Sorry. I am overly caffeinated at the moment. The predictions:

PREDICTIONS…FOR REAL THIS TIME!

Prediction for ’16 #’s: Clinton 52%, Cruz 43%, As Yet Unknown Right Winger <5%, Senate goes to Dems, House of Reps firmly gerrymandered GOP

The election will be a functional, if not demographic and ideological, repeat of the ’94 election, with another Clinton winning

Someone from the FAR right will emerge to represent the “right is never right enough” crowd who scarily keep getting more vocal.

Cruz will survive a tough GOP primary race because I’m convinced that he is a somehow a Latino Richard Nixon clone & Nixon was basically the political version of the Terminator.

There will be a violent bludgeoning of Clinton in primaries from Left, which will leave her “reformed” enough to garner left/center/moderate votes (and hence why I will be writing in Bernie Sanders…)

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art

Art Work: Old Man

Old Man

Title: “Old Man”, Medium: Black Sharpie on Acid Free Paper,

This work was drawn on the train from Chicago to Elburn, late February. My technique is to start with one random line, and then to work from there to see what emerges. I like to create free form portraits from scratch and to challenge my visual imagination. This work will be available on my store for purchase when I get it up and running!

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art, review, TV

TV Review: Better Call Saul Season 1

Better Call Saul, Mondays 9pm Central on AMC

Better Call Saul, Mondays 9pm Central on AMC

I love everything about this show. Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould took what has long been a pitfall of TV entertainment (the useless and unneeded spinoff) and turned it into what may be the best show on TV. The entire 1st season has unfolded like a slightly off-kilter John Cheever story. The creators and writers have taken an uproarious, ridiculous, sleezy, but quite one dimensional color character from the now classic “Breaking Bad” and fleshed him out into a leading character that we feel for, pull for, and laugh with (and occasionally at). Over season 1 we have watched Jimmy McGill (played, as in Breaking Bad, by comedic impresario Bob Odenkirk) try and build his bellow the bottom the of barrel law practice into something less than a punchline to a life that had up to that point been a literal con job. You see, Slippin’ Jimmy, with the help of his wingman Marco, had made his living on the mean streets of Cicero conning barflies out of their beer money until he finally got in over his head and his lawyer brother Chuck bailed him out, figuratively and literally.

Jimmy went from mail-boy at his brother’s million dollar Law Firm to newly minted (by the law school at the University of the American Samoa) lawyer. Jimmy looks like a dumb puppy who finally went number two on command when he shows his brother his passing grade from the New Mexico Bar. Chuck is less than thrilled, and as we find out as the season unfolds, Chuck (who has some serious, though as yet not fully explored mental health difficulties) finally admits to Jimmy that he sees his younger brother as little more than a joke, a cross to bear that will never be anything but Slippin’ Jimmy in his eyes. Chuck is played with subtle humor and sympathy by the great comedic actor Michael McKean and a character that could have been your run of the mill “disapproving authority figure” but is instead a compelling part of the plot and a source of some of the season’s great moments, not the least of which is the agoraphobic lawyer’s first sojourn into the real world in months, if not years. The scene is beautifully shot, with an enormous elm tree embracing the frame like a comforting hug from a loved one. The scenes between Jimmy and Chuck are incredibly realistic and, I can say as someone who has a brother, the feelings that are on display are dead on in their accuracy. Chuck loves Jimmy, but he hates what he is, who he is, and sees his hijinks, not unfairly, as an insult to the Law profession that he loves just as dearly. It will be fun to see where the writers choose to take this relationship as the series continues.

Better Call Saul is about some rather seedy characters, but it does not have the moral burden of having a literal psychopath as it’s central personality. We don’t constantly have to justify our love for the character, and explain away his actions, like we had to with Walter White/Heisenberg. If Breaking Bad was about the banality and morality of good and evil, Saul is more about those pesky grey area most of the world lives, lies, and loves in. Jimmy is a “bad guy”, sure, at least insofar as he is an unethical guy. Then again most of his “victims” are unethical or at least criminally stupid. Jimmy seems to have an innate understanding of the human capacity for self-justification: the larcenous couple, Jimmy’s clients, who bilk the tax payers out of millions, the brother who who justifies his emotional abuse of his brother by telling himself it is for the poor schmuck’s “own good”. Jimmy knows when to hold them and when to fold them, to quote the great Kenny Rogers, and he knows when someone is trying to string him along. Sometimes he lets them, all the while gaining leverage over his wannabe tormentors and turning the deceit (and greed, and anger, and fear) to his advantage. Jimmy McGill is a bad lawyer, in an ethical sense, but he is not an incompetent lawyer. Far from it; he knows the ins and outs of the law, the loopholes and hidey-holes that can make you a pretty penny if you know how to exploit them. This is how he creates the Sandpiper Nursing home out of whole cloth, and how he stays one step ahead of a violent group of drug runners he runs afoul of in pursuit of a case (or con).

As with Breaking Bad (it is inevitable that this new show will be compared to its progenitor, so why fight it?) “Saul” is buoyed by its supporting characters. The aforementioned Chuck is one example, as is fellow lawyer and one time love interest Kim Wexler. Kim works for the Jimmy’s brother’s firm, and while the character has yet to be fully fleshed out (I am looking forward to this next season) she is played by Rhea Seehorn with a steely resolve and drive that is tempered by a burning-self doubt that seems to be holding her back from her full potential. It is not always clear whether Kim loves Jimmy or just pities him, but she tries to do right by a friend who she obviously has some feelings for. In a flashback we are teased with the fact that Kim and Jimmy were once very much in love, but something, or someone, came between them. That tension is obvious in their interactions with one another, with Jimmy obviously trying his damndest to not drag Kim down into the muck and mire with him.

The real standout from the first season, and in my opinion the most compelling and human story in the show so far, is the saga of corrupt Philly Cop/Muscle for hire Mike Ehrmantraut. Mike was played by Jonathan Banks with a tired authority in Breaking Bad, and he reprises the fan favorite character with an increased sense of urgency and tragedy in “Saul”. We find Mike running a ticket booth at the county court parking lot, where he first meets Jimmy, obviously bored as can be with his life and seeking to do right by the widow of his beloved son. The son was gunned down by his supposed “brothers” on the police force in Philly for refusing to play dirty like his fellow cops, and his father, do and did. When Mike relates the story of his son’s disillusionment with his father and with his career, Banks takes what could have been a maudlin scene and turns it into a tour de force of genuine emotion and pathos. Mike is not the sort to wear his emotions on his sleeve but in this moment with his daughter-in-law he shows a vulnerability and a sadness that is as profound as it is revelatory. Mike in “Bad” was a violent but fair grim reaper of sorts, but “Saul’s” Mike is a man who is trapped in a hell of his own making and who is desperately trying to salvage what he can from the wreckage that he had a large part in creating. Mike’s story line is not integral to Jimmy’s development (at least not yet…) but it is an important part of why the series works as well as it does. I personally hope that Mike’s plot remains as central to the show as Jimmy’s, and I suspect it will as Jimmy becomes Saul and has more and more need for a quiet but effective enforcer. Mike is brutal and unforgiving, but he has a humor and sense of fairplay about him that makes you respect and even love him. He is kind to his daughter-in-law and positively dotes on his granddaughter. Mike is most like the Ronin of such Samurai classics as “Seven Samurai”, “13 Assassins”, and the “Blind Samurai” series. He takes his craft, organized, strategically applied violence, seriously and he never does anything halfway. He also refuses to hurt others unless he absolutely has to, and he takes no joy in causing others pain. He is a force of nature, an inevitability, and he embraces this role. In Jimmy he has met another soul that knows that sometimes you have to get your hands, or a homicide detective’s shirt, dirty in order to get things done. They are drawn together first out of need, and then out of a sort of begrudging respect. Mike wanted out of the dirty world in which he plied his trade, but now that it is threatening to drag him back in again, he is not struggle all that hard to prevent it from doing so. I think there is much more to mine with this character and I expect Jimmy and Mike will find more and more in common as the show progresses.

I have tried, but I cannot find anything wrong with this show. It’s pacing is perfect, its subject matter dark but fascinating and occasionally hilarious, and the writing is so naturalistic it borders on documentary style. This is how people in the real world spin tall tales, how they ply their trade, and how they justify their behavior to their peers and to themselves. The season ended on a low key (but brilliant) note and I have a feeling that Better Call Saul has nowhere to go but up.

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Civil rights

Boycott Indiana!

indiana-protest_0

The people of the US have spoken, through their words, their actions, and through the actions of business that are panicking at the idea of alienating their customer base: The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an unconstitutional, unconscionable violation of human rights and dignity.

Some have claimed that the law goes no farther than the (in my opinion superfluous and useless) Federal RFRA, but that is blatantly untrue. The Atlantic has pointed out that the law differs from the Federal one in some subtle, but key ways, namely in that it makes it much easier for a discriminating business to make their case in court that their discrimination is protected by the 1st Amendment and it gives business the right to free exercise of religion that they have never before had in this context (see this link for more details http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/what-makes-indianas-religious-freedom-law-different/388997/)

There is much confusion about the Federal Law as well. The right to refuse exists federally only in so far as it does not contradict or violate existing Civil Rights Laws and Statutes. So no, federally, you cannot refuse to serve someone based on sexual orientation and expect to get away with it in court because that is protected at the federal level and the Supreme Court has ruled that the Federal Religious Freedom Act does not apply to the states. Basic federalism. The point with this bill is that it makes it so that a person cannot sue a business for being discriminated against using civil rights violations as a basis. This goes FAR past the scope of the federal statute. It violates the 14th Amendment protection of equality under the law. A free society is not one that caters to individual beliefs and prejudices, but that which strives for equality before the law and a balance of civil rights with personal liberty. The arguments made for this bill are structurally the same as those made for segregation in the late stages of the Jim Crow south. Telling a person they cannot refuse service to someone based on an immutable part of their humanity is not communism, it is not fascistic, and it is not anti-democratic. It is not even close. It is civil libertarianism, the very antithesis of an anti-democratic philosophy. The right to refuse exists as a term of law, as a defense in a civil judicial proceeding. It is not a blank check to discriminate based on religious whims. Again, the Indiana law is actually ANTI-constitutional in that it bypasses the judicial structures that are put in place for someone discriminated against to sue for damages if they feel that the business owner wrongfully refused service.

It is heartening and inspiring that so many Americans are now standing up and refusing to accept this sort of discrimination against their LGBT friends, family members, and associates. I do not believe this sort of outcry would have happened 10 or 15 years ago, and the fact that this backlash is happening the way it is shows how much progress has been made by LGBT activists, their supporters, and in the culture at large. The expansion and acceptance of LGBT rights in the US is one of the most positive developments this nation has ever seen, especially within my lifetime (I was born in 1987, during the nadir of the Reagan regime). Let’s keep up the pressure, we must not give up the fight. This movement will not a be a success until our LGBT brothers and sisters enjoy ALL the rights straight citizens do. This is non-negotiable in the same way African American Civil Rights were, and movements like #boycotindiana are an important way that everyday citizens can make a difference. Refuse to do business in Indiana until this law is repealed! Send a message to the bigoted Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence. Together we can make this country a more accepting place.

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