The Man On The Other Side Of The Wall

Talking Medical Marijuana Blues – Part One

Today I have a number of thoughts about medical marijuana running around my head, all of which I’ve grouped under the heading of Talking Medical Marijuana Blues in my head.

I plan on posting several articles today and tomorrow following this line of thinking…

In these postings I’d like to tell you about:
(1) my own personal reasons for being involved in this fight,
(2) the importance of collectives for regular patients,
(3) how marijuana works as a medicine for me,
(4) and the proposed ban on collectives here in Long Beach and why this is such a bad idea. (And what you can do to help!)

A Brief Look At My Personal History With Medical Marijuana

First off – Why is medical marijuana such an important issue in my life?

I use marijuana to help manage the symptoms of a chronic physical condition I’ll lived with my whole life called Bi-Polar Spectrum Disorder, which means I experience repeated, severe depressions and occasional hypo-manias. Even though this is often thought of as a “mental” illness – it’s really a “physical” illness that affects every part of me, including my thought processes.

When I first started smoking marijuana in 1983, I immediately felt relief from the extreme body discomfort I live with daily. It would still be years before I was diagnosed, but I knew that marijuana “made life feel right” to me.

Right after I started smoking marijuana the Reagan Just Say No era began and I became very politicized because of my involvement with marijuana and my rock-solid conviction that the Drug War was wrong in every way.

In 1998, because of severe bout of depression I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, and so began my long adventure with pharmaceutical drugs to treat this chronic and debilitating condition.

In 2002 I started a year and a half campaign to educate my Kaiser psychiatrist about the various way in which medical marijuana helps my condition and it’s value to me as a medicine (the only one that has work so far, by the way).

The following story was written on the weekend in November 2003 after I finally got my medical marijuana recommendation (one of the very few ever given out by a Kaiser doctor) and entered the new world of “legal” medical marijuana.

The Man On The Other Side Of The Wall

On Tuesday night, November 18th, I got home from work, sat in my big chair, kicked back, and for the first time in my life smoked marijuana legally.

Within minutes the herb was soothing the chemical hell of the mania I was enduring. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, in my own living room, smoking pot legally. After all these years of self-medicating my disorder, finally I was legit, the doctor had given me his recommendation, no, his strong recommendation that I use medical marijuana.

I couldn’t wait to share my good news. I called some friends and shared my story of my yearlong journey with my psychiatrist and the doctor I met with today. These are people I’ve smoked marijuana with before. They know what a hassle the drug war is.

Yesterday I was one of them. This morning when I woke up I was one of them. If the Federal Government takes a disliking to me, I’m still one of them. But somehow, during the course of my conversations I realized that I had been smuggled out of the country, and now I was the man living on the other side of the wall.

One of my friends said, “Wow, that’s really great for you, Jon, I wish…” and he sounded like someone wishing for the far country. It breaks my heart. I think I can imagine what it must have felt like to be smuggled out of East Berlin into West Berlin, and knowing that people just like you should be where you are.

I didn’t realize when I walked into that doctor’s office on Tuesday morning, that it was actually a tunnel under the wall. I walked into that office from the East Berlin of the drug war and walked out in West Berlin. The city is still surrounded, but that is about to change. Freedom has to win. The wall will come down.

But for now, that wall is standing, looking as solid as ever, and I’m a confused immigrant trying to find my way around. How do I go about handling this situation? How do other people who use medical marijuana handle their situation? When and where can I smoke when I need to medicate? Do I now have a greater freedom of movement just like with the other prescription meds I take? It’s a strange new world to me, just a few days old.

So what’s it like on that side of the wall, you might be wondering? Well, when you grow up afraid of the secret police, the fear doesn’t go away over night. I still feel reflexively like I’m on the other side of the wall, I’m sure that will change with time.

I keep turning the doctors words over in my mind “I’m strongly recommending that you use medical marijuana.” When being a criminal is the last thing you want to be, those are the best words you can hear. I’ll figure out how to do my shopping in this new city soon enough, but for this moment, I’m just smelling the air of freedom.

I know the city is surrounded, and I know they have the blockade on. But I’ve been smuggled out to live, die and pray with those that breathe the air of freedom, even if it’s just for a moment.

Ich bin ein Berliner.

November 22, 2003

Next: Talking Medical Marijuana Blues – Part TwoI Get By With The Help Of My Friends

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