MOTHER,PATIENT, FREEDOM FIGHTER
By: Eugene Davidovich
A dedicated mother of three, activist, and medical marijuana patient; Wendy Christakes with a severely injured back continues to be an integral part of the San Diego medical marijuana community, and has helped defend patientsâ€™ rights all the way to the Supreme Court.
Born in Hawaii and raised in a military family, Wendy lived for several years in California and Hawaii in connection with her fatherâ€™s military service. Having graduated from Valhalla High School in 1995, she decided to settle in San Diego and found employment at Sycuan Casino.
She first started working in the food service department, but then quickly found her passion for electronics, transferred out of food service, and worked at Sycuan as an electronics technician repairing gaming machines as well as investigating and correcting variances in Sycuanâ€™s accounting systems. In addition, Wendy was able to complete her Associates Degree in electronics.
In 2002, while at work and twenty four weeks pregnant, Wendy was taking a box of equipment down from a six foot tall shelf. Having found the box to be heavier than she anticipated, she lost her balance for a second, and while holding the heavy box in her hands, landed on her feet. X-rays and MRIâ€™s taken months later showed two herniated discs in her back and bone fragments floating around in her spine.
One of the herniated discs was surgically removed in a procedure covered by her insurance company. Now, she is in need of a spinal fusion; where herniated discs are removed and replaced with titanium rods. Her insurance company unfortunately, wonâ€™t cover the procedure, and Wendy continues to suffer daily.
Although she successfully delivered her baby, she was forced to leave her job and get on disability, and the eighteen pills per day regiment prescribed to her by her doctors was, as Wendy put it, â€œsedating me into unconsciousnessâ€.
Wendy was no stranger to the benefits of medical marijuana. In 1996, when her sister was dying of cancer, medical marijuana was the only thing that helped her eat and live her last months in more comfort and less pain.
In an effort to reduce the harm the opiates and muscle relaxers were causing, and after having seen the relief herself that cannabis provided to her sister, Wendy decided to incorporate medical marijuana into her own treatment. Within two years, she was able to reduce eighteen pills daily down to zero and get off disability.
When asked how exactly cannabis helped her, Wendy explained, â€œwithout cannabis my mobility would be impaired, I would be in bed a lot with back pain. With the use of medical cannabis, I can do yoga. The medicine alleviates pain enough for me to be able to actually comb my hair, something I could never do before while on the prescriptions.
I have more energy and ability to do more with my kids. I can clean and take care of the house and not be too sedated or in too much agonizing and incapacitating pain.â€
Wendy was also no stranger to the fight for the right to use this medicine. She saw patients constantly being harassed and arrested for medical marijuana in San Diego and access to the medicine quickly being eradicated.
In 2004, Wendy joined Americans for Safe Access and began attending the local San Diego Chapter meetings. Her activism and dedication to the chapter catapulted her to the forefront of the fight, and until 2007, Wendy actively helped coordinate the local chapter and was responsible for fundraising.
Wendy was planning local actions, helping dispensaries prepare for raids, providing peer counseling and actively conducting research on how much money was being spent on the eradication effort.
In early 2006, when San Diego County filed a law suit against the state challenging Senate Bill 420 and the state requirement to implement county issued ID Cards for medical marijuana patients, Wendy found herself named in the actual lawsuit. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear San Diegoâ€™s arguments. San Diego County today as a result is issuing ID cards, and patients have access to over 100 dispensing collectives in the county.
In 2007, Wendy helped start the Patients Advocacy Network (PAN), a nonprofit organization that helps educate the public about medical marijuana and has been gathering affidavits from patients raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to be presented to the House Judiciary Committee to hopefully open an investigational oversight committee to look into the DEA actions against legal state collectives and patients.
Recently, Wendy has become Director of Integrity Workers Collective, a San Diego nonprofit that focuses on alternative medicine patient care and strives to be one of the most compassionate collectives in San Diego.
NUG Magazine caught up with Wendy at Integrity Workers Collective and we asked her where she sees the medical cannabis issue five years from now.
She explained, â€œIn five years, I hope we have sensible regulations and I hope that medical marijuana dispensing collectives can actually be accepted as any other business; law abiding, taxpaying, people giving back to the community, to schools. I see collectives as being an asset to the community. Contributing locally is the only way we will get support on the regulation issue. Dispensing collectives should take ownership and take care of their community.
Wendy went on to say, â€œI donâ€™t think that marijuana is a harmful drug and I donâ€™t think it should be a controlled substance, itâ€™s a plant that should be regulated through the FDA or the agricultural department. Until cannabis is removed from the controlled substance act I will keep working on this issue.â€