Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jun 2007
Source: Tribune, The (San Luis Obispo, CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Tribune
Author: Bob Cuddy
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Elaine McKellips, a 55-year-old Republican grandmother, doesn't think 
of herself as a bad person, let alone a criminal. She has a son, 
daughter-inlaw and two grandchildren in Oregon. Her son fought in 
Operation Desert Storm.

Elaine, who lives in Atascadero, has been a lawabiding businesswoman. 
She once even turned in a meth dealer in her neighborhood.

But various illnesses with obscure-sounding names have grabbed her 
and thrown her down: degenerative disc disease, spastic esophagus, 
hyperactive bowel.

She has suffered through them all. And then one day, gastroparesis 
came calling. It's a complex stomach ailment that, simply put, partly 
paralyzes the stomach and keeps food from passing through in a normal 
manner.  Among its many symptoms are vomiting and nausea.

"It's like having morning sickness every day," she says.

Incapacitated, Elaine reluctantly took her doctor's advice and went 
to Morro Bay's Compassionate Care Center to get medical marijuana to 
help with the nausea. It worked.

Then the center closed, collateral damage in the war on drugs and the 
nation's culture wars.

Various reasons have arisen for closing this or any other medical 
marijuana dispensary:

. The Feds believe medical marijuana is illegal, even though the 
state does not;

. There is widespread belief that marijuana leads to abuse of 
stronger drugs; and

. A dark suspicion lurks that dispensaries are merely fronts for drug runners.

Elaine has heard them all. But as she lies in bed fighting nausea or, 
having lost the fight, hunches over the toilet vomiting, she thinks 
that perhaps one part of this story is being forgotten: the sick.

Elaine doesn't understand why there is such little compassion for 
them -- for her -- in this struggle.

"I'm not a druggie," she says. "I don't know why they see me as a problem.

"They think you go to the doctor and say, 'I want to smoke 
marijuana.' But this is a last resort."

She says she went to the dispensary once a month.

Marijuana "relaxes me; it calms my nausea. I'm able to lie down, and 
the nausea eases," she says.

It's really just that simple, and Elaine believes it is the same for 
the other people who went to the clinic.  She thinks with the clinic 
closed, and with opposition mounting to a dispensary proposed in 
Templeton, all of them will suffer.

"Cancer patients in Paso will need it; chemo patients," she says.

In exasperation, Elaine sighs that the people who believe the worst 
"don't understand."

"It almost needs to touch their lives," Elaine says. "I wish they 
could live my life for 24 hours and tell me (marijuana) doesn't help. 
Or come over and sit with me when I throw up, or bathe me."

For the moment, Elaine is taking a panoply of prescriptions. They 
aren't helping as much. She can't get to the nearest dispensary in 
Buellton; it's too far.

Losing access "makes my life more hopeless," she says.  "I don't want 
to live like this."

"If you see someone suffering," she asks, "how can you say you're not 
going to help him?" 
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