By Serra Frank
Today I met with Elisha Figuroa, the Director of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. Elisha works for Governor Butch Otter's office, as the voice for Drug Policy in Idaho.
I called to schedule my appointment with her a few weeks ago, after watching her on the news regarding the upcoming Epidolex trials for 25 of Idaho's children. I remember thinking, "Yeah this trial is a great step forward from total prohibition in Idaho, but Idaho's Children Don't Have Time to Wait." I felt the push that I need to finally talk to this lady about my Lilly, and how she had to move to Southern California, All Because Idaho Won't Legalize Medical Marijuana.
I was surprised when, instead of scheduling the appointment, the receptionist took my number and said Elisha would call me back. I was even more surprised when she actually did shortly after. She was very nice on the phone, and when I told her I was a Mom and that I wanted to come in and talk to her about Medical Marijuana in Idaho, she was willing and we scheduled an appointment for today.
Surprising still, was that I wasn't even nervous. In the past, when speaking to legislators, police officers, judges, and other state officials, I have always been anxious. Butterflies in my stomach and insecurities about what I should say often plague me as I get on stage or in front of others to speak, am interviewed for shows and articles, or sit down in an appointment such as this. I thought it odd that not one ounce of anxiety was present as I got ready for the meeting this morning. Or even when I drove to the meeting, and entered the Office of Drug Policy to meet with Elisha.
In a very fortunate coincidence, my Lilly arrived spontaneously last week for a short transititional visit before she has to return to California to continue her Medical Marijuana journey. So she, and my 13 year old son, TJ, were able to accompany me to the meeting. Instead of just telling Elisha about my daughter's need and journey to safe access in California, and instead of just showing a picture of her beautiful face, I was able to bring the real live Princess Lilly with me. I'm sure the impact was a hundred times more with her presence.
As usual, Lilly was the center of attention. Our meeting took place around her as she set off exploring Elisha's office, playing with notepads, pens, and books. In between Lilly's adorable interruptions, we had quite the conversation.
Based on her reaction, Elisha knew the names of our groups well. I made it immediately clear that I wished to put my titles and groups, and her title and agency, aside for the meeting and just have a conversation from Mom to Mom. I told her that instead of viewing each other as enemies on separate sides of an issue, I would much rather connect with her and work together to address the concerns on both sides and see where we might find some middle ground.
I feel like Elisha and I were able to connect one on one, in a way I never expected. I feel that I am pretty good at reading people's energies, and connecting with their heart in a way that gives me an idea of who they truly are, despite any facade they may attempt to achieve. I see this in all professions, whether they be social workers, judges, police officers, or politicians. Energy does not lie, even if someone's words and actions do. And there are good people in all of those professions, I call them Angels in Disguise. Like I teach my children, it's not the job, it's the person. Everyone has their own choices to make, regardless of their job, and to use authority of a job to make bad decisions is where the problems arise. I am always happy when I encounter someone with a position of authority whose energy feels genuine.
We discussed both of our concerns regarding the legality of Medical Marijuana, and Cannabis in general, in Idaho. I explained Lilly's story, from Washington CPS, contracting MRSA in Foster Care, the negligence of the Social workers, coming home to Idaho and to her move to California. My tears refused to stay hidden as I discussed the fears I have regarding internal infections, especially when she has an outbreak. I explained to her how MRSA works, and how fatal it can be if it gets into her blood or her internal organs. I was even able to show Elisha a fresh outbreak on Lilly's face that shown up this morning. I asked her repeatedly why should my family be torn apart before we can even have a choice to try something that is proven safe.
Elisha asked her own questions, regarding Lilly's MRSA, as well as my own medical experiences. I told her about the thousands of people I've encountered in my own journey, and the things I have learned. I told her about my work with New Approach Idaho, and the last decade of Moms for Marijuana International.
We discussed the toxicity of Marijuana, and the stupid things people do when they are high. Her concerns included driving under the influence and bad reactions to edibles in Colorado (such as the unfortunate suicide of a college student who lept to his death from a balcony after having a bad reaction) and I asked her whether she really thought it was the drug that is to blame for someone making a decision to take more than the recommended dose of a drug, or doing stupid things like driving while intoxicated. What about all the people who use the drug safely and responsibly? Why are they punished for something someone else does that really isn't caused by the drug, but by the bad judgement or personal decisions of the consumer. It was not the marijuana that caused someone to take more than the recommended dose. Psychological issues come into play as well. And there are criminal penalties for real criminal behavior that actually harms others. Such laws are good laws and should definitely be enforced, but punishing people for choosing a safer choice than alcohol and pharmaceuticals is not logical.
I explained to Elisha my experiences with medical dispensaries and the differences between getting marijuana from the black market to use as medicine, or getting it from a regulated market in Oregon or Washington. The safety of it, the ability to choose what you need and the amount you need, the feeling of relief when you can walk in the store and get what you need, rather than sit in the parking lot, waiting for some guy to pull up, who might just rip you off.
She asked if I would rather talk to a doctor about my medicine or talk to a "budtender" and I told her that honestly, I'd rather talk to a doctor. But because of prohibition, the doctors don't know what they should about using it as medicine. In reality, it really is the budtenders and dispensary employees who know what strains work for what conditions, and that again, because of prohibition, the medical marijuana communities have had to figure out their own methods of use and dosages. Websites like Leafly.com help provide strain reviews and different effects and aspects of different strains for medical use.
We spoke for an entire hour, about everything from decriminalization to legalization, industrial hemp, the history of Cannabis, prohibition, and the drug war, and of course many aspects of Medical Marijuana. I really felt like she actually listened to what I had to say and was genuine in her questions. She seemed to really wanted to hear what I had to say.
Elisha thanked me numerous times for having such a calm conversation, instead of the anger and emotion that often accompanies these type of meetings about something so controversial and close to home. She was even open to the possibility of attending one of New Approach Idaho & SSDP's town hall meetings. She gave me her card and encouraged me to email her with more information and keep her updated on Lilly's Journey to Safe Access. She said that she reads every email she receives and every document that is given by any Idaho resident who wishes to be heard by her office.
After the meeting, I printed all the information I had intended on giving to Elisha but hadn't had access to a printer that worked. A stack of studies and articles that I have spent the last few days compiling, including MRSA & Marijuana information, the Opinion and Recommended Ruling, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision of Administrative DEA Law Judge, Francis Young on whether or not there is a "lack of accepted safety for the use of Marijuana under medical supervision, and several off-topic studies and articles about marijuana compounds, as well as pregnancy and breastfeeding.
I printed it all and took her a copy, attached to a 3 page letter that touched on everything we had discussed (see below). The binder I bought to hold it all was so stuffed with information, I could barely close it. When I stopped at Elisha's office again, to drop it off, she was in a meeting with the door closed. I knocked and she smiled at me through the window. When I handed it to her, she thanked me for taking the time to drop it off. I definitely plan on sending her more information in the very near future.
Overall it was a really good meeting, and I felt really good about it. Elisha's generation isn't much older than mine, and it seemed like she was just as intrigued to learn about all the Medical benefits of Marijuana as I have been for the last ten years.
As a public official, Elisha is responsible for understanding public opinions, but influenced by the political aspects as well. Her job as the Director of the Office of Drug Policy deals with numerous aspects of drug policy, not just marijuana or medical use, and I know that her position on controversial matters are influenced by every aspect of Idaho government, including it's politicians, prosecutors, and law officials, but also constituents like you and me. I think that she is open to learning more, and I already know that once you really do the research, it is no longer possible to support the prohibition of Marijuana, especially for medical use. Either way, we all have a decision to make when it comes to Marijuana in Idaho, and it is only through actual education and discussion that we can make educated decisions to reform bad laws.
I think it is only a matter of time, before both the Idaho public and government are on the same page about the need for research, access, and regulation of Medical Marijuana. Right now there are players on both side, and we have various differences, but it is the similarities that matter. The fact that we were ALL lied to about marijuana, and deceived about it's effects and properties, by people who no longer walk on this earth puts us all in the same place.
We are all in the same position of learning what is truth, and determining how that truth affects ourselves, our families, and our societies. This might just be a common ground that could help open the door to real discussion about Cannabis in Idaho. Everyone will have a side to choose, but in the end, it is in the reform of these laws that our State's compassion for it's citizens will really be felt.
My Letter to Elisha Figuroa:
I wanted to be sure to follow up with this letter, as a reference guide to the many things which I spoke with you about during our meeting.
As I mentioned in the meeting, my (step)daughter, Lilly, contracted MRSA, an antibiotic resistant staph infection "super bug" when she was only 11 months old. For the last two years, she has suffered continuous skin outbreaks every few weeks. These recurring boils on the body are a sign of MRSA, a symptom that comes from a festering infection within the body that is not yet near major arteries or organs.
Currently we can treat the outbreaks topically, with Muciproxin, an antibiotic/antibacterial prescribed by her pediatrician. But all other antibiotics have shown to be ineffective at completely ridding her small body of the infection. Instead, they tear apart her insides, leaving her with abdominal pain and with blood in her stools.
If the MRSA were to spread to her major arteries or organs, she could develop a fatal infection that could quickly take her from us, include pneumonia, which took her cousin from this world just last year. It can also cause the blood infection, sepsis. We have no way of knowing whether or not this is actually occurring inside of her, until her body shows outward signs of infection.
The CDC reports there are over 80,000 severe MRSA infections and 11,000 deaths per year. You can imagine, as a mother, our constant fear of this occurring, and every cough or sniffle sends us into a panic, searching her body for signs of outbreak.
Through our research, we learned that not only is Medical Marijuana a safe and nontoxic medical treatment, it has been extremely effective in anecdotal cases of MRSA, as well as proving to be beneficial through scientific studies conducted around the world.
The WebMD website reports on international studies done by scientists in the UK and Italy, where they tested five major marijuana compounds, called cannabinoids, on different strains of MRSA. All five showed germ-killing activity against the MRSA strains in lab tests, and the scientists note that the cannabinoids kill bacteria in a different way than traditional antibiotics, meaning they might be able to bypass bacterial resistance.
When the CBD oil bill made it to Governor Otter's desk, my family was hopeful. Not because the CBD bill would provide any real protection for our family, but because it meant that things were getting closer to being able to provide her with a medicine that might actually work. We were devastated when Governor Otter vetoed that bill. While we understand how important the trials for Epidolex are for the children in Idaho who suffer from seizures, and to help obtain FDA approval for use of this drug in any severely ill or disabled individual, our daughter does not qualify and the trial is of no use to her.
In part, because she does not suffer seizures, but also because, unfortunately, the antibiotic and antibacterial properties that help fight MRSA are not found in the Cannabidiol (CBD) compound as I was telling you in our meeting. The cannabinoids that were studied by the British and Italian scientists include Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabigerol (CBG), and terpenoids, like α-terpineol, borenol, and β-myrcene. These Cannabinoids contain the antibiotic and antibacterial properties that our daughter needs to fight the MRSA internally, and might possibly rid her body of it completely, instead of just topically during outbreaks.
And while the study is of great importance and a wonderful step forward for Idaho's marijuana policies, my daughter just does not have time to wait. A MRSA infection can quickly become fatal, especially in vulnerable patients like children and the elderly.
So now, as I told you, my daughter and her father have been forced to relocate to Southern California, where she can be seen by specialists in the Medical Marijuana fields, and obtain this safe and effective treatment. They left Idaho several weeks ago, and she just recently returned for a transitional visit, to help her understand that just because she has a new home, doesn't mean that her home isn't still here in Idaho with her mother and her brother.
My hope today, by requesting this meeting with you, is to help put another face to Medical Marijuana, and respectfully request that you will take a moment to consider the other children in Idaho who could benefit from a Medical Marijuana program here. Not just the small children, like my Lilly, or those with epilepsy, but the adults as well.
Our state is completely surrounded by states that have made the decision to not wait for the FDA to approve medical marijuana before showing compassion to it's residents. Instead, they have disregarded federal authority and took care of their citizens by doing what the voters wanted them to do and allow a medical marijuana program for safe access to this life saving medicine.
Our families should not be torn apart because of laws that are not based on scientific study or logic. As Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out during his documentary, Marijuana was placed as a Schedule One drug on the Controlled Substance Act, not because of sound medical science proving it harmful, but because of an absence of medical information showing either way. The research has already been done, and decades of science that is accessible through a quick google search, shows that Marijuana is actually an extremely safe and beneficial medicine.
As I mentioned, the risks of using Medical Marijuana for Lilly, despite Idaho's laws, are just too great. No family should be split apart, such as mine, just to have an option in treatment without facing the judgement of agencies like Child Protective Services. But Lilly cannot stay here and not receive treatment. It puts her health and her life, and our hearts, in the balance, hanging on the thread of political disagreement. And I, along with thousands of others here, are begging for Idaho to reconsider their stance on Medical Marijuana and finally show compassion to it's citizens and their families.
I appreciate that you took the time to meet with me and my family. It was such a pleasure to talk with you and I hope our discussion has helped provide another perspective on Medical Marijuana. I am very glad we were able to connect, and that you were able to meet my children.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, or wish to speak with a specialist regarding anything I have mentioned today. I have numerous medical professionals from outside of Idaho, who are more than willing to speak with you or Governor Otter, regarding the safety and medical uses of the Cannabis plant.
Lilly's father has found a medical marijuana specialist, as well as an internal disease specialist, that are willing to help her with treatment as soon as she gets home from this short visit. As you asked, I will keep you informed of the progress she makes with Medical Marijuana under California law. I appreciate your interest.
Lilly & Tj
Lists of links for the attached articles & studies:
Source: 420 Mommy Blog