Ry L. is a young dad who suffers from severe ulcers and erosions in his esophagus and stomach. "Smoking [cannabis] is the only thing that helps me eat and keep it down," he said.
And with only 16 states allowing medical marijuana as an option, chances were pretty good that Ry would have to either suffer in silence, or dabble in allegedly criminal behavior, just to seek relief from pain.
Luckily, Ry lives in Connecticut, which will become the 17th state to allow medical marijuana as an option as of Oct. 1. While it remains to be seen how easy it will be for him to acquire the necessary medical approval and exactly how legal marijuana dispensaries will operate in that state under the very narrow law, at least he will get that chance.
But a lot of people suffering with similar pain are not so lucky. And they have to either deal with their issues, or allow themselves to break laws, just because of which state they happen to live in.
Ry said he had similar legal issues in his life that forced him to quit smoking. Although he said he needs cannabis for medical reasons, it jeopardizes his life style and reputation because of social stigmas. Since quitting, Ry said his physical well-being has spun out of control, and he is counting down the days until Oct. 1.
"In the last two months I have lost 43 pounds cause I literally do not eat anymore; if I do I throw it up," he said. "I also don't sleep because smoking helped me with my post-traumatic stress disorder."
Ry said he has consistent re-occurring nightmares reliving an incident where he found his friend dead at the scene of a horrific motorcycle accident.
"This whole no smoking thing is really getting to me, between no eating and no sleeping," he said. I'm just a miserable (expletive) and I can't help it! I hate it because it's not me! October 1st needs to hurry up and get here!"
Shantra S. of Arkansas said she uses cannabis to relieve chronic pain in her knees due to plica syndrome, which causes irritation and inflammation in the knees and femur. Like Ry, Shantra said she is constantly struggling with the inconvenience and social prejudices of needing cannabis for medical reasons, but being treated like a criminal for living in one of the states where it is not yet a legal medical option.
"I use cannabis for chronic pain in my knees, migraines and insomnia," Shantra said. "All of the pain I have, I got while in the military. I live in Arkansas and I can tell you that not having cannabis decriminalized, legalized and available sucks. I feel like a criminal when I have to purchase and when I consume it for pain relief. I work in the medical field also, so I have fear of getting fired. Sometimes I just want to move to a state that has moved beyond stigmas.
"It is truly inconvenient to have cannabis allowed in some states and not others because of fear of being harshly reprimanded," Shantra continued. "I am a disabled vet, and I work in the medical field. Medicinal cannabis helps me deal with pain, but living in a state that frowns upon cannabis turns ordinary patients into criminals because we have to go to drug dealers for our medicine."
As Some States Ease Restrictions, the Feds Clamp Down
The overall trend toward easing legal restrictions on marijuana use is positive, both with expanding medical marijuana access, and decriminalization in more states. And 3 states - Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, have marijuana legalization ballot initiatives going before the voters this fall.
However, the Federal government still shows no signs of backing down on strict enforcement, as well as the continued classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which is reserved for controlled substances with no medically accepted use. This is in spite of the soon to be 17 states that acknowledge medical benefits of cannabis, and the National Academies of Sciences findings on the obvious medical uses.
Because of this, citizens keep finding themselves behind bars for conducting activities that should be legal, and in fact are legal in many places. Edward Bogunovich is an 87-year-old Denver man who was arrested for growing his own medical marijuana supply. Richard Flor is a medical marijuana distributor from Montana who died in prison from a heart attack at age 68 while serving what was only supposed to be a five-year term.
But until the United States becomes united on this front, citizens will continue to be arrested and socially ostracized for activities that are perfectly legal in other states.