Patient Profile: James
By: Pamela Jayne
Letâ€™s just say that James is not hesitant when it comes to voicing his opinions. Although a broken back has left him confined to a wheelchair, his spirit and voice more than make up for what his body is unable to do. He is independent, strong-willed, and armed with a lifetime of experience and facts about the benefits of medical cannabis. The 800-pound air compressor that caused his injury may have sidelined him physically, but it also led him to become outspoken in many areas, medical cannabis being one of them.
This is not the first time that James has been in print. He was featured on the cover of the San Diego Union Tribune back in 2006, discussing how he was impacted by Part D of Social Security. â€œI wanted to let people know how that affected those who depend on SSI, but I didnâ€™t expect my face to be plastered on the front page!â€ he said.
When I asked James if he ever felt stereotyped because of his cannabis use, he made an excellent point that applies to everyone, not only cannabis users. â€œArenâ€™t we all [stereotyped], all the time? The media stereotypes us, the police stereotype us, and the politicians definitely stereotype us as people who have no intelligence and no interest in politics or what is going on in the country. They think we donâ€™t care about anything, but that is not true. We care about each other, and we help each other.â€ He smiled a knowing smile and added, â€œWe do care, we do listen, and most importantly, we do vote!â€
James has had the same physician since 1996, and not only is his doctor aware of the fact that James uses medical cannabis, he readily encourages it. This is especially significant because it is highly unusual that a CMS (County Medical Services) physician would officially give James the go-ahead to use cannabis as medicine. Of course that conversation was off the record, but it does show that doctors are not as afraid to advocate for medical cannabis as they once were. According to James, his doctor is very open-minded and told him, â€œI happen to know a lot about herbal and alternative medicines, and I believe in that they work. If it helps you, go for it.â€
â€œNobody has any idea of what I go through on a daily basis. I can tell you about it, but unless you actually feel it, you have no idea what it is really like.â€ The pain James endures is due to his back being broken not once, but twice. After the initial injury, he was eventually able to return to work; but the second time, the damage was so extensive that he was paralyzed from the waist down for three months and is still confined to a wheelchair. Imagine the pain of having an 800-pound air compressor fall directly on your back. The pain has been constant since the accident, and the only pain management that the modern medical establishment is willing to provide comes in the form of highly addictive and dangerous pills.
One of the most common and disturbing themes that I have noticed in all of these months of speaking to medical cannabis patients, is the pharmaceutical â€œinstant addiction in a bottleâ€ drug called Oxycontin. I have never heard any of them say that it is a good thing. Most say they will only take it in conjunction with medical cannabis, so the many painful, dangerous, even life-threatening side effects may be lessened, or at the very least, tolerated. Patient after patient describes it as poison, or a â€œnecessary evilâ€.Â â€œI hate having to take that shit,â€ some have said in more candid moments. All agree that the government needs to lighten up when it comes to medical cannabis use, and allow for real research to be done. As James says, â€œWe patients are a wealth of information, so study us. I mean really study us, and youâ€™ll see the truth. Forget the â€˜Reefer Madnessâ€™ propaganda and open your minds. Stop letting the government tell you what to think. I know from my own personal experience that cannabis does not have any negative side effects. All of that man-made, synthetic stuff is a shot in the dark, and the side effects are harmful. I know because I have been through it. Why should I have to deal with that when marijuana is so safe and it actually works?â€
Because he is legally allowed to possess and use medical cannabis, James has reduced his pill intake from 13 different daily prescriptions, down to only six. He is also currently working on lowering the dosage of medications.
About the ignorant few who still loudly insist that cannabis has no medical value and is nothing but a recreational drug, James says this, â€œThey are ignorant. They donâ€™t care. They wrongly stereotype us as just a bunch of lazy potheads. These are the same people who will pop pills every day, even though they have no idea of the long-term side effects. They see a commercial on TV, so they assume it is safe.â€ I know exactly the type of person he is speaking of. We have all seen them at city council hearings and on the local news lying to the public about the effects of cannabis on the community. If ignorance really is bliss, then they must be the happiest people on earth!
I ordinarily prefer to end these articles on a hopeful note, but month after month of hearing story after story of ailing, vulnerable people being hurried through the medical system and treated like lab rats, rather than human beings, has made me angry. It has dimmed my view of humanity. On a positive note, I would like to thank all of the collective operators, caregivers, growers, and activists who risk their own freedom to protect the rights of medical cannabis patients â€“ most of whom they have never even met. If only the health care system in the United States were so compassionateâ€¦