By Jeanette Bokland
Last November, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like many others in similar circumstances, I've tackled much of it with humor and a positive attitude and loads of pharmaceuticals with varying unpleasant side effects. It has been an epic battle involving a double mastectomy, radiation therapy, breast reconstruction (a process which left me miserably uncomfortable every single minute), and chemotherapy -- endless needles pumping foreign liquids into my body leaving me weak and nauseous and horribly depressed for days afterward.
At one point, many months into my treatment, I was ready to quit. There are no words to adequately describe the discomfort and despair I was feeling. It was at that time a friend of mine offered to get me some medical marijuana from Colorado. I said yes. I was willing to try anything, willing to break the law, for some relief.
Before you jump to any conclusions, I'm in my '50s and work in the medical field and am not a recreational pot smoker (or anything else for that matter.) Still, the chemotherapy combined with the prescription medications left me so miserable and incapacitated, I was desperate.
I ate it -- didn't smoke it -- I don't want to smoke anything. And it worked. Marijuana took away my nausea, so I could eat healthy. It took away the severe restlessness and anxiety, so I could relax. It allowed me to eat, sleep and be up and active when I was awake -- all of which are critical to recovery. It didn't get me "high;" it made me feel halfway normal (as opposed to the prescriptions, which left me feeling drugged and weak). It gave me the strength to continue with chemotherapy when I had reached a point where I really couldn't tolerate it anymore.
For me, the medical marijuana was a miracle drug, a life-saver. I wished I had used it from the beginning because it was so helpful. And according to our current law, I should go to jail for it.
The fact that people in Florida can legally smoke cigarettes (which are known to cause cancer), but cannot legally relieve their cancer treatment symptoms with medical marijuana is completely ridiculous. Medical marijuana is safe, is already legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and is supported by the American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association and many other organizations. Yet, here in Florida politicians have decided to take it upon themselves to decide what's best for health care when medical decisions should be made by doctors and their patients, not politicians.
Amendment 2 would fix that flaw by legalizing medical marijuana and making it available for people with debilitating conditions and diseases like cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's. These people deserve compassion, not threats of imprisonment or stigmatization for using a drug scientifically proven to help alleviate their misery. Doctors should be allowed to recommend medical marijuana to patients who need it and provide them a better quality of life. It seems cruel to withhold any solutions we have at our disposal.
Legalizing and regulating medical marijuana isn't only the compassionate thing to do, it's also the responsible thing to do to ensure safety. I shared my experience with marijuana with women on a breast cancer internet forum to help empower them to take control. Out of desperation, one woman bought pot from a "street dealer" (since it's not legal), and it only made her misery worse because it wasn't the type of marijuana appropriate for her needs. Regulating marijuana means patients could get prescriptions for exactly what they need.
I have a friend who's dying from ALS who texted (because he can no longer speak) me asking if I have any marijuana. I gave him everything I had left. It breaks my heart that he and countless other suffering individuals don't have access to this simple, safe solution. I urge everyone in Florida to vote "yes" on Amendment 2 this fall. Individuals who are sick and suffering should not go to jail for medical marijuana, and neither should their doctors.
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